(source: Singapore Prime Minister’s office)

SINGAPORE – Both China and the rest of the world have to adapt to this new reality that China is now one of the two largest economies in the world, they should no longer expect to be treated the same way as in the past when it was much smaller and weaker.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out the facts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue Opening Dinner last Friday (May 31).

In Lee’s keynote address speech, he mentioned that China has to recognize that it is in a totally new situation created by its own success, it may still be decades away from becoming a fully developed advanced country, but China cannot wait decades before taking on larger responsibilities.

“The rest of the world too has to adjust to a larger role for China. Countries have to accept that China will continue to grow and strengthen, and that it is neither possible nor wise for them to prevent this from happening. ”

“As a major stakeholder in the international system, China should be encouraged to play commensurate and constructive roles in supranational institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and WTO.”

Lee also noted that the United States being the preeminent power has the most difficult adjustment to make, but however difficult the task, it is well worth the US forging a new understanding that will integrate China’s aspirations within the current system of rules and norms.

“New international rules need to be made in many areas, including trade and intellectual property, cybersecurity and social media. China will expect a say in this process because it sees the present rules as having been created in the past without its participation. This is an entirely reasonable expectation.”

“The bottomline is that the US and China need to work together, and with other countries too, to bring the global system up to date, and to not upend the system. To succeed in this, each must understand the other’s point of view, and reconcile each other’s interests.”

The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue is Asia’s premier defense summit, held at the Shangri-La Hotel from 31st May till 2nd June 2019. It’s a unique meeting where there are defence ministers, senior military officials and experts and scholars from about 40 countries including representatives from the US and China debate the region’s most pressing security challenges, engage in important bilateral talks and come up with fresh solutions together.