How Then Should Singapore Respond To The Sino-US Tensions?

by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

How Then Should Singapore Respond To The Sino-US Tensions?

More likely than not, the tensions between the U.S. and China will be a protracted one due to ideological, economic, technological and military differences, and their pursuits of geopolitical dominance and influence.

Whether we like it or not, Singapore is already drawn into the Sino-US crossfire, and doing nothing may be an unwise choice.

Taking a passive position may send a wrong signal to the two big elephants and cause us to be unwittingly or carelessly trampled upon by them.

Also, we have to find ways to ensure that we can sail through the storm and reach a safe and desirable harbor should the tensions escalate and potentially drag us through the mud.

How then should a small country like Singapore respond?

First, we should continue to stay humble, friendly, relevant, useful, and proactive in building constructive bridges and bondings with the two countries.

We have to remain an objective, neutral and principled partner that promotes a rules-based globalized economy so as to achieve greater good for Singapore and the world.

Secondly, Singapore should help to catalyze an influential group of credible, trusted and friendly mediators to step in to help the two big elephants bridge their differences and find common denominators.

Realize that trade and other collaborations between them can be a positive-sum game, and encourage them to develop a mutually-acceptable solution.

These mediators have to act, and act fast, before tensions become a full-blown trade war, and a win-win outcome may become harder to achieve through discussion, negotiation and mediation.

Thirdly, there may be a possibility of miscalculation and misfire in the ensuing Sino-US tensions.

Therefore, Singapore has to ring-fence ourselves and diversify our economy so as to prevent undue dependence on both countries, and mitigate our vulnerability should the trade tensions cause undue fallouts that may affect our security and growth.

Fourthly, as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining.

Enterprises and investors may choose to relocate part or all of their operations out of the U.S., China, and other countries that are caught in the crossfire.

We have to explore ways to capitalize on opportunities that arise from these and other changes to strengthen our economy and country.

Last but not least, it is likely that both the U.S. and China and the US will attempt to influence Singapore to lean towards them, and they may even apply undue pressures on our people to take sides in the battle for hearts and minds.

Therefore, expect fake news and other misinformation to be circulated in the prolonged battle for allegiance and support.

What’s key for Singaporeans is to close ranks regardless of sociopolitical beliefs, and to stand together as “one united people”.

For without unity, we cannot survive and achieve progress as we weather not just the potential trade war but also the geopolitical storms ahead of us.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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