Balancing an emerging dragon

I think Lee Kuan Yew’s speech to the US-ASEAN Business Council in Washington on October 27th is an important read for any Singaporean who is going to live to see the next 30 to 40 years in this country.

He was basically appealing to American leaders to get more involved in East Asia than they have been in the recent past. He warned them against ignoring this region, because doing so would risk allowing China to replace them as the pre-eminent power in the region.

Of course, being the hard nosed pragmatist that he is, he was not there to give advice to America for America’s sake.

The sense of urgency in his speech was palpable. In a rare admission, he painted China as a threat to our region if left unchecked by American power. He warned that the Chinese navy’s “blue-water fleet with aircraft carriers cannot just be to deter foreign intervention in a conflict between Taiwan and the Mainland.”

In other words, China may not always remain on its course of a benign “peaceful rise” that it publicly claims. Just as it has already started to exert itself economically, the day will come soon when it will start to assert itself militarily as well.

When that day comes, it is not the US that will be at greatest risk, but the countries in Asia, including Singapore. It is therefore important to ensure that the balance of power is maintained in our region, with the US as a strong counter balance to a rising China.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

9 thoughts on “Balancing an emerging dragon”

  1. Hello, how many young Americans died in Vietnam? If that is not involvement in East Asia, what is? In the Bloomberg interview with Charlie Rose, LKY is saying why should America be involved in Afghanistan and Iraq, let them solve their own problems. If that is not spouting nonsense, then what is?

  2. Loyola – Thanks, that’s what I wanted to say but didn’t.

    Jezebella and mark – Thanks for your comments. I happen to agree with LKY’s stand in this instance. This was not a blog post defending him, but arguing my personal view of the geo-political situation in Asia.

    From a nationalist point of view, obviously none of us wants to be seen to be pandering to the US. However, we mustn’t start having delusions of grandeur. We are a tiny dot a fraction of the size of New York or Shanghai.

    We need American engagement in Asia, not because they so great and benevolent, but because there is a potentially greater threat from a totalitarian state that is not accountable to its own people.

    It’s true that America was very involved in Vietnam (and Korea too). But can you imagine what would have happened to Singapore if they had not stepped in? I think the red tide would have swept through Southeast Asia and swallowed up Singapore.

    Since the end of the Vietnam war, American involvement in Asia has reduced significantly. This is a trend that I hope President Obama would stem — not for America’s sake (which is not my concern) but Singapore’s sake.

  3. he triggered the “threat” and now he wants to nullify the threat?

    is he playing solo chess?

  4. the next pertinent question now is how do you shift the power and wealth to the elites and pacify the mass of losers or economic slaves?

    1)feed the people with an elitist education which promises them a bite of the Adam’s apple?
    2) the rule of law to silence/delete her critics?
    3) daily news to massage their egos by constantly featuring the life or lifestyle of those(few) who have struck it rich/successful and you could be the next “osim”?
    4) or have faith(love and not fight), pray(nature of problem is spiritual) and tithe your way to prosperity?
    5) hire anthony robbins or mr prince to do damage control?
    6) convince the people that work is good for their mental health and they should be glad that the system has ensure they will work till they drop – therefore be thankful?
    7) open more casinos
    8) sent the old man to resolve the middle east issues before we see the rise of a revived roman empire?
    9) hire more lim sweet say to upside the downside
    10) long live the dynasty!

  5. Hi Gerald,

    A agree with you strongly on your views. It is not America’s interest we are pandering to but Singapore and also Asia’s interest. While China may claim to a “peaceful rise” we cannot assume so. Already we are seeing signs of their economic influence swaying countries like Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and The Philipines on to their side. The idea of Asean + 3 would have included USA if not for China’s influence on this country.

    A balance of power is what LKY is seeking as he is concern with the growing Chinese clout. While the world may not like the US for what it has done, it has nevertheless been the most relatively benign of superpower in the history of mankind.


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