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.