Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

US President-elect Biden faces challenge in dealing with China, but PM Lee hopes for framework for constructive ties

SINGAPORE — Tensions between the United States and China are expected to linger because any new US administration cannot "proceed as if the last few years had not taken place", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that US President-elect Joe Biden (pictured) faces an uphill task in mending ties with China.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that US President-elect Joe Biden (pictured) faces an uphill task in mending ties with China.

  • PM Lee Hsien Loong hopes that US President-elect Joe Biden will be able to build a constructive relationship with China
  • But tensions between the two superpowers will not disappear overnight, he said
  • It will also take time for the US to convince other nations that it is interested in the stability of the region and well-being of its partners

 

SINGAPORE — Tensions between the United States and China are expected to linger because any new US administration cannot "proceed as if the last few years had not taken place", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. 

In an interview with Bloomberg News’ editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, Mr Lee said he still hopes that US President-elect Joe Biden can "focus his mind on developing a framework for an overall constructive relationship with China" despite the many pressing domestics issues that he needs to tackle.

In the interview, which was pre-recorded for the Bloomberg 2020 New Economy Forum on Tuesday (Nov 17), Mr Lee said that such a relationship is "one where you are going to be competing, where there will be issues to deal with, but where you do not want to collide and will try very hard to develop the areas of common interest and constrain the areas of disagreement".

And within such a framework, the two sides would have to deal with “all the many issues” facing them, namely trade, security, climate change, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and North Korea. 

“Among those will also be issues that will be of concern to all the rest of us in Asia, who are watching carefully to see how things will develop,” he said.

Mr Lee said though, that Mr Biden may have a hard time dealing with China because there is a consensus within the US administration to see China as a strategic threat and that this is “almost becoming received wisdom and unquestionable” in the US government.

“It will be very difficult for any administration, whether it is Biden or on the other side, (Donald) Trump, to disregard that and then just proceed as if the last few years had not taken place.”

During the wide-ranging interview, Mr Micklethwait asked Mr Lee if he was worried that the world was breaking up into regional blocs instead of being connected on an international scale. 

Mr Lee said that this was a possibility, but it was unlikely that the world will split up.

“The trans-Pacific trade links and trans-Atlantic trade links are too substantial to be cut off, and to divide us into two worlds or three worlds,” he said. 

However, the risk of bifurcation — or division — of technology is there, and has already happened in China. 

He noted, for example, that because the Chinese are unable to access many parts of the internet, such as Google, Facebook or Twitter, they created their own equivalents.

Mr Lee also touched on how incumbent president Donald Trump’s administration has affected the way the US is viewed in this region.

“When you talk about putting America first and making America great again, it is a more narrow definition of where America’s interests lie than has hitherto been the way US administrations have seen things,” Mr Lee said.

Past administrations saw the US as having a broad interest in regional stability and the well-being of its partners, and were focused on fostering an overall environment where many countries can prosper in an orderly scheme.

“It will take some time for America to come back to such a position, and for others to be convinced that it is taking such a position,” Mr Lee said.

“It may never come back all the way, certainly in the short term and certainly in terms of its relationship with China.”

Related topics

Joe Biden Lee Hsien Loong US-China

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.