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Any US-China clash will have grievous consequences for the world: PM Lee

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, China, which was attended by world leaders. 

04:14 Min
Any clash between the United States and China will have grievous consequences for themselves and the world, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Mar 30) at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in China. Low Minmin with more.

BEIJING: Any clash between the United States and China will have grievous consequences for themselves and the world, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Mar 30) at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in China.

On the fourth day of his official visit to China, Mr Lee spoke at the opening ceremony of the annual conference in the Hainan province about China's relationship with the US.

"Most worrying is the state of relations between the US and China. Big powers have a heavy responsibility to maintain stable and workable relations with one another, because any clash between them will have grievous consequences, for themselves and the world," Mr Lee said.

"And yet the US and China are at odds over many intractable issues, including trade and investments, supply chains, cybersecurity, emerging and critical technologies, as well as freedom of navigation.

"We hope that China and the United States will succeed in stabilising their relationship, and establish sufficient mutual trust and respect to cooperate in areas where their interests are aligned."

The audience at Mr Lee's speech comprised business and world leaders, including China's Premier Li Qiang and Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The Boao Forum, inaugurated in 2001, is a platform aimed at promoting common development through regional economic integration. It will last four days. 

Apart from US-China relations, Mr Lee spoke about Asia's "enormous promise", as well as the need for countries in Asia to deepen cooperation with one another.

"(Asia is) home to more than half the world's population, and Asians are increasingly better educated, and brimming with energy, ideas, and dynamism," he said. 

Realising Asia's promise depends on the region remaining stable, inclusive and open. Like every other region, Asia is affected by the troubled global environment and strategic tensions, he added.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted societies, and that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has profoundly undermined the rules-based international order. He also pointed to the relationship between China and the US.

"The world feels the impact of these tensions keenly. Progress on tackling urgent problems such as climate change, energy and food security, and pandemic preparedness has been severely impeded," Mr Lee said.

"Economic imperatives are being overshadowed by national security concerns. Countries are pursuing self-reliance and resilience, by 'on-shoring' or 'friend-shoring' their supply chains.

"The bifurcation in technological and economic systems is deepening. And this will impose a huge economic cost on countries, as well as further exacerbate rivalries and frictions."

Against this context, countries in Asia should continue to promote economic cooperation and good relations between China and other countries in the region, said the Prime Minister, noting that China has become the largest trading partner for almost every country in Asia. 

Regional and global initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Belt and Road Initiative, and the Global Development Initiative, have been launched.

Mr Lee said Singapore's ties with China are "doing well", with both countries updating and improving the China-Singapore free trade agreement. He also noted several projects between both countries.

He said the economic cooperation between China and its Asian neighbours will be "more robust if it is underpinned by a sound broader relationship, which builds mutual trust and fosters regional stability".

While national interests may diverge and bilateral issues will arise at times, countries should "insulate our economic relations from these difficulties" and continue to do business with each other, he added. 

Besides strengthening ties with China, countries in Asia should build a "dense mesh of cooperation and interdependence, rather than a hub and spokes model", said Mr Lee. 

He noted agreements between member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - such as the ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement - as examples of partnership efforts. 

While not every country needs to be in every group, collectively, the different groupings "build a resilient and interlocking network of cooperation among countries in Asia". 

"At the same time, these regional groupings deepen ties between Asia and the rest of the world, and this gives our external partners stakes in Asia’s peace and prosperity," said Mr Lee. 

He stressed that Asia should always remain an open region.

"Whether Asia can realise its promise will depend on how well countries in Asia maintain stable relations and cooperate practically and productively, both amongst themselves and with our external partners," Mr Lee said.

"As a very important economy in Asia, China has a big role to play in all of this.

"We welcome China’s commitment to continue opening up its economy, and to continue supporting multilateralism and regional cooperation, and we look forward to all parties contributing more actively to regional and global development and prosperity, to benefit Asia and the world."

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim on Mar 30, 2023, on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia conference. (Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information)

Mr Lee also had a bilateral meeting with Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar on the sidelines of the conference, Mr Lee's press secretary told reporters. 

"They reaffirmed the close and unique bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia, and reviewed the progress made in bilateral cooperation since PM Anwar’s official visit to Singapore in January 2023," the press secretary added.

After the forum, Mr Lee will travel to Beijing, where he will meet Chinese leaders, including China's President Xi Jinping. He will depart from China on Apr 1. 

Source: CNA/wt(mi)


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