U.S. President-elect Joe Biden should look to develop an “overall constructive relationship” with China following “quite a tumultuous ride” over the past four years, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview.
A new framework between the nations would allow both countries “to develop the areas of common interest, and constrain the areas of disagreement” on issues such as trade, security, climate change, North Korea and non-proliferation, Lee said in an interview with Bloomberg Editor-In-Chief John Micklethwait at the New Economy Forum. Singapore’s leader also rejected any attempt to divide nations “Cold War style.”
“We all want to work together with the U.S., we all want to work together with other vibrant economies, we would like to cooperate within the region,” said Lee, who has already offered his congratulations to Biden. “I think not very many countries would like to join basically a coalition against those who have been excluded, chief of whom will be China.”
Lee has been one of the most vocal global leaders calling for the world’s biggest economies to avoid a destructive clash that could force smaller countries like Singapore to choose sides on everything from trade and technology to Covid
and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. A city-state dependent on trade, Singapore supports a strong American presence in Asia by allowing the U.S. to use its military facilities while also counting China as its top trading partner.
Lee said while Beijing doesn’t want a “collision” with the U.S., Chinese officials may not be prepared to cede much ground. At the same time, he said, President Donald Trump
’s “America First” view of the world has changed perceptions both within the U.S. and overseas about how broadly the world’s predominant superpower has an interest in maintaining global stability.
“It will take some time I think for America to come back to such a position, and for others to be convinced that it is taking such a position,” Lee said. “It may never come back all the way, certainly in the short term and certainly in terms of its relations with China.”