Singapore’s George Yeo on Trump, Xi and The Future of US-China Relations


Singapore’s George Yeo on Trump, Xi and  The Future of US-China Relations

Image result for Singapore's George Yeo

In a recent speech in Hong Kong, former Singapore foreign minister George Yeo gave an expansive view of US-China relations amid uncertainties about how President-elect Trump would handle the relationship. This is an edited version of his remarks.

The Chinese have no wish to play the US’ role in the world. The Chinese view is that you can be an Islamic theocracy, you can be a Sultan, you can be Salafi, that’s your problem so long as you don’t hurt me. If you hurt me, I may have to hurt you. But I have enough problems looking after my own family. How can I interfere in your family’s matters? I got enough headaches of my own.–George Yeo

Sino-US relations are probably the single most important set of relations in the world today, and they are complex.

We have on January 20, a new United States President. I think Mr Donald Trump has to be taken seriously, despite all the jokes made about him and some of his remarks.

So you get remarkable comments like that made by (Secretary of State nominee) Rex Tillerson that the US should prevent China from accessing what China takes to be her islands in the South China Sea – which must lead to war. I don’t think he’s that ignorant, or that unreasonable.

His remarkable achievement was not in defeating Hillary Clinton. It was in defeating a whole line of Republican candidates, many of whom were pretty credible. But one after another they were toppled, and that’s because he was able to plumb deep and tap upon a deep undertow of dissatisfaction and disaffection.

But that’s American politics. He has assembled an impressive group of people to help him. And right now they speak with divergent voices because they’ve got to clear US Senate approval and everyone has to play to the gallery.

So you get remarkable comments like that made by (Secretary of State nominee) Rex Tillerson that the US should prevent China from accessing what China takes to be her islands in the South China Sea – which must lead to war. I don’t think he’s that ignorant, or that unreasonable.

Donald J. TRUMP: Not be disregarded

Image result for Take Donald J Trump seriouslyThe Saber Rattling Trump–Posturing for Global Attention

We do know that Mr Trump has certain deep instincts. He sees a lot of problems in American society. He wants to reinvigorate it. So trade has to be fair, in his mind. I’m not sure it’s going to help just by arm twisting automobile companies to manufacture in the US, because the global economy is much more complicated than that.

But it does win him applause from the gallery, and some things we must expect him to do for political reasons. As he himself has said, he’s from Wharton, so he can’t be stupid. And he’s not. To think that he is would be a serious miscalculation.

He says, ‘Look, we got to deregulate’. He wants to simplify the tax code and reduce the general level of taxation. He wants to revamp infrastructure in America, much of which has gone to disrepair. And that’s the right direction to go. He wants to control the borders better. Again, he may have made outrageous remarks, but the deep intention is, ‘We’ve got to have a handle on illegal immigration, and also to control conduits which may bring in radicals and terrorists’.

But there are two things which are troubling. One, it is easy to spend, it’s easy to reduce taxes, people would cheer you. But how do you cover the deficit?

The other area which is a bit troubling is what appears to be a very deep conflict between Mr Trump and the intelligence agencies. He has become very distrustful of them. And he takes a practical approach towards international security. Must we interfere in Syria? Was it right – Iraq, Libya, and the cornering of Russia? Maybe this is driving them into the arms of China. Does it make sense?

There are many people whose entire careers are formed on certain perspective and he’s challenging them. It’s important to get past the common criticisms against Mr Trump, quoting him against him, laughing at some of his inanities, and ignoring his deep purposes. I think it’s much more important to look at his deep purposes because he’s not a man to be disregarded.

XI Jinping: Restored Leadership Authority

Image result for XI Jinping: Restored Leadership Authority

President Xi Jinping ,China’s Brilliant Internationalist and Global Networker–Do Business, Not Make War

On the Chinese side, President Xi Jinping has been absolutely remarkable. He could not have done what he did without (his predecessor) Hu Jintao refusing to stay on in the Central Military Commission for two years. His enemies already showed their hand before he took over.

So with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) behind him, he cracked down on the internal security apparatus. Having subdued that quadrant, he turned back to tackle corruption within the PLA itself. And after that, he set about cleaning up the Communist Party Youth League. In less than four years, he has done much to restore the moral authority of China’s leadership.

China is a very unusual country. It has always been governed as an administrative state, one where all lines report to the emperor – for administration, for intelligence, for policing, for military matters, water control and so on. So they have developed a bureaucratic class of people, very smart people, who are rotated around, so that their loyalties are never to the provinces they come from, but to the centre.

When China’s core is healthy, the management, the governance of the country is a matter of administration, almost like a company. It’s logical – what are the problems, what are the needs, you draw a plan, you find the money, you have control measures, and you implement.

Today, it is the only major country which can exercise a national will. They have already built more high-speed rail infrastructure than the rest of the world combined. They want to double it. And 80 per cent of Chinese cities will be linked by fast rail. It’s completely transformed the sense of distance, on a continental scale.

And they’re now using big data for governance. If you read the Economist, it says it’s just a way of controlling the lives of individuals. Yes, it could also do that, for political control. But it is much more than that. What they are in fact doing is to use the revolution in IT to govern human society in a way which has never been done before.

And that is breathtaking. Using big data now, they are monitoring the health, of say, Peking University, or a province in China, or an ethnic group, or a generation of people. There are just too many Chinese for anybody to monitor individually. But they get a shape of what is healthy and what is not.

The Future of US-China Relations

Last July, RAND Corporation published a report called ‘War with China: Thinking through the unthinkable’. It said that if there’s a war today, the US would be bloodied but China would be pulverised.

In a war 10 years from now, however, the US will also be bloodied. There must be strategic thinkers who say, ‘Look, it’s better to fight now, better not to wait’. The Chinese know that, but they are saying: “Must we be in this Thucydides Trap, where big power relations are a zero sum game?” They say no. Prepare for the worst, but let’s work on a new pattern of big power relations.

The US fears that China will behave in the same way when it becomes the biggest economy on Earth. A clash then becomes inevitable, in the way that there was an inevitable clash between the US and the former Soviet Union.

But China is not like that. This is a civilisation which has deep instincts of its own past and of its own nature. And because of that, China will never harmonise with the rest of the world. Whether we’re talking about cyber space, cultural policy or capital markets, China will never harmonise with the rest of the world.

Yes, there will be normal traffic, but there’s always a semi-permeable membrane, which ensures that what is good gets in, and what is considered subversive cannot get in. And because it cannot harmonise with the rest of the world, for that is in the nature of the Chinese civilisation, a large part of the US’ worry about China is not justified.

The Chinese have no wish to play the US’ role in the world. The Chinese view is that you can be an Islamic theocracy, you can be a Sultan, you can be Salafi, that’s your problem so long as you don’t hurt me. If you hurt me, I may have to hurt you. But I have enough problems looking after my own family. How can I interfere in your family’s matters? I got enough headaches of my own.

So they take a very detached approach to the internal policies of other countries. The Western view is, ‘Hey this is amoral’. But does the West really want China to be a proselytising power, a missionary power? Because if it is, it’s going to purvey a different set of values. And this leads to an inevitable clash.

The Chinese are very serious when they talk about a new pattern of big power relations, though this has been pooh-poohed by many commentators. The problem is a lack of understanding about the nature of Chinese civilisation.

Many people say it’s just a matter of time before the renminbi will be internationalised. It’ll never be completely internationalised. Because if it’s completely internationalised, China will lose control of its own economy. I don’t believe anyone governing China would ever allow this loss of control over its own financial system.

Image result for Jared Kushner and Henry Kissinger
Image result for Jared Kushner and Henry Kissinger

Jared Kushner and Henry Kissinger

So does Trump understand any of this? I don’t know. But he consults (former US Secretary of State Henry) Kissinger, and Kissinger understands. And I’ve been told that he has asked Kissinger to tutor Jared Kushner (the son-in-law and confidante of Mr Trump), which cheered me, because I think Kushner would play an important role within the inner circle. And if on the important issues he has regard for Kissinger’s views, then the risks would be managed.

If there’s a miscalculation, if there’s an escalating series of accidents which get out of control, and there’s a major conflict between China and the US, I think all of us here will have a miserable time. The injuries on both sides of the Pacific would be almost beyond imagination.

There is therefore a huge incentive for all of us, in ways small and big, to help build little bridges that promote understanding.

http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/trump-xi-and-shape-us-china-relations-come-george-yeo

4 thoughts on “Singapore’s George Yeo on Trump, Xi and The Future of US-China Relations

  1. HONG KONG — Sino-US relations are probably the single most important set of relations in the world today, and they are complex.
    We have on Jan 20, a new United States President. I think Mr Donald Trump has to be taken seriously, despite all the jokes made about him and some of his remarks.
    His remarkable achievement was not in defeating Hillary Clinton. It was in defeating a whole line of Republican candidates, many of whom were pretty credible. But one after another they were toppled, and that’s because he was able to plumb deep and tap upon a deep undertow of dissatisfaction and disaffection.
    But that’s American politics. He has assembled an impressive group of people to help him. And right now they speak with divergent voices because they’ve got to clear US Senate approval and everyone has to play to the gallery.
    So you get remarkable comments like that made by (Secretary of State nominee) Rex Tillerson that the US should prevent China from accessing what China takes to be her islands in the South China Sea – which must lead to war. I don’t think he’s that ignorant, or that unreasonable.
    TRUMP: NOT TO BE DISREGARDED
    We do know that Mr Trump has certain deep instincts. He sees a lot of problems in American society. He wants to reinvigorate it. So trade has to be fair, in his mind. I’m not sure it’s going to help just by arm twisting automobile companies to manufacture in the US, because the global economy is much more complicated than that.
    But it does win him applause from the gallery, and some things we must expect him to do for political reasons. As he himself has said, he’s from Wharton, so he can’t be stupid. And he’s not. To think that he is would be a serious miscalculation.
    He says, ‘Look, we got to deregulate’. He wants to simplify the tax code and reduce the general level of taxation. He wants to revamp infrastructure in America, much of which has gone to disrepair. And that’s the right direction to go. He wants to control the borders better. Again, he may have made outrageous remarks, but the deep intention is, ‘We’ve got to have a handle on illegal immigration, and also to control conduits which may bring in radicals and terrorists’.
    But there are two things which are troubling. One, it is easy to spend, it’s easy to reduce taxes, people would cheer you. But how do you cover the deficit?
    The other area which is a bit troubling is what appears to be a very deep conflict between Mr Trump and the intelligence agencies. He has become very distrustful of them. And he takes a practical approach towards international security. Must we interfere in Syria? Was it right – Iraq, Libya, and the cornering of Russia? Maybe this is driving them into the arms of China. Does it make sense?
    There are many people whose entire careers are formed on certain perspective and he’s challenging them. It’s important to get past the common criticisms against Mr Trump, quoting him against him, laughing at some of his inanities, and ignoring his deep purposes. I think it’s much more important to look at his deep purposes because he’s not a man to be disregarded.
    XI: RESTORED LEADERSHIP AUTHORITY
    On the Chinese side, President Xi Jinping has been absolutely remarkable. He could not have done what he did without (his predecessor) Hu Jintao refusing to stay on in the Central Military Commission for two years. His enemies already showed their hand before he took over.
    So with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) behind him, he cracked down on the internal security apparatus. Having subdued that quadrant, he turned back to tackle corruption within the PLA itself. And after that, he set about cleaning up the Communist Party Youth League. In less than four years, he has done much to restore the moral authority of China’s leadership.
    China is a very unusual country. It has always been governed as an administrative state, one where all lines report to the emperor – for administration, for intelligence, for policing, for military matters, water control and so on. So they have developed a bureaucratic class of people, very smart people, who are rotated around, so that their loyalties are never to the provinces they come from, but to the centre.
    When China’s core is healthy, the management, the governance of the country is a matter of administration, almost like a company. It’s logical – what are the problems, what are the needs, you draw a plan, you find the money, you have control measures, and you implement.
    Today, it is the only major country which can exercise a national will. They have already built more high-speed rail infrastructure than the rest of the world combined. They want to double it. And 80 per cent of Chinese cities will be linked by fast rail. It’s completely transformed the sense of distance, on a continental scale.
    And they’re now using big data for governance. If you read the Economist, it says it’s just a way of controlling the lives of individuals. Yes, it could also do that, for political control. But it is much more than that. What they are in fact doing is to use the revolution in IT to govern human society in a way which has never been done before.
    And that is breathtaking. Using big data now, they are monitoring the health, of say, Peking University, or a province in China, or an ethnic group, or a generation of people. There are just too many Chinese for anybody to monitor individually. But they get a shape of what is healthy and what is not.
    THE FUTURE OF US-CHINA RELATIONS
    Last July, RAND Corporation published a report called ‘War with China: Thinking through the unthinkable’. It said that if there’s a war today, the US would be bloodied but China would be pulverised.
    In a war 10 years from now, however, the US will also be bloodied. There must be strategic thinkers who say, ‘Look, it’s better to fight now, better not to wait’. The Chinese know that, but they are saying: “Must we be in this Thucydides Trap, where big power relations are a zero sum game?” They say no. Prepare for the worst, but let’s work on a new pattern of big power relations.
    The US fears that China will behave in the same way when it becomes the biggest economy on Earth. A clash then becomes inevitable, in the way that there was an inevitable clash between the US and the former Soviet Union.
    But China is not like that. This is a civilisation which has deep instincts of its own past and of its own nature. And because of that, China will never harmonise with the rest of the world. Whether we’re talking about cyber space, cultural policy or capital markets, China will never harmonise with the rest of the world.
    Yes, there will be normal traffic, but there’s always a semi-permeable membrane, which ensures that what is good gets in, and what is considered subversive cannot get in. And because it cannot harmonise with the rest of the world, for that is in the nature of the Chinese civilisation, a large part of the US’ worry about China is not justified.
    The Chinese have no wish to play the US’ role in the world.
    The Chinese view is that you can be an Islamic theocracy, you can be a Sultan, you can be Salafi, that’s your problem so long as you don’t hurt me. If you hurt me, I may have to hurt you. But I have enough problems looking after my own family. How can I interfere in your family’s matters? I got enough headaches of my own.
    So they take a very detached approach to the internal policies of other countries. The Western view is, ‘Hey this is amoral’.
    But does the West really want China to be a proselytising power, a missionary power? Because if it is, it’s going to purvey a different set of values. And this leads to an inevitable clash.
    The Chinese are very serious when they talk about a new pattern of big power relations, though this has been pooh-poohed by many commentators. The problem is a lack of understanding about the nature of Chinese civilisation.
    Many people say it’s just a matter of time before the renminbi will be internationalised. It’ll never be completely internationalised. Because if it’s completely internationalised, China will lose control of its own economy. I don’t believe anyone governing China would ever allow this loss of control over its own financial system.
    So does Trump understand any of this? I don’t know. But he consults (former US Secretary of State Henry) Kissinger, and Kissinger understands. And I’ve been told that he has asked Kissinger to tutor Jared Kushner (the son-in-law and confidante of Mr Trump), which cheered me, because I think Kushner would play an important role within the inner circle. And if on the important issues he has regard for Kissinger’s views, then the risks would be managed.
    If there’s a miscalculation, if there’s an escalating series of accidents which get out of control, and there’s a major conflict between China and the US, I think all of us here will have a miserable time. The injuries on both sides of the Pacific would be almost beyond imagination.
    There is therefore a huge incentive for all of us, in ways small and big, to help build little bridges that promote understanding.

  2. This is a tuft war on a global scale.

    China is the new kid on the block.

    It is a clash of civilizations, which, if it happens, ends Civilization itself.

    Too dramatic? People fight for much lesser things and reasons.

    Trump is a man with a big chip on his shoulders, and Xi is someone with a heavy historical baggage on his back.

  3. I have been wondering why two powerful nations needed a translator from Singapore. I believe both nations know each other well. At times, for myself, it is like my left brain talking to my right brain. For the case for Taiwan and Chinese leaders meeting in Singapore, it is perhaps even stranger. Didn’t all of the Chinese leaders carry identical heritage, and know their thousands year old culture as well as their counterparts? Trump’s inauguration speech could easily pass as a speech from Xi-core addressing his own people. The opposite could be applied for what Xi-core presented in Davos. As for the internal politics of the Muslims, putting Jesus aside, is it any different from what the Christians experienced during the period of Protestant Reformation/Rebellion?

    Or perhaps, it is my pendatang mentality that is different? I am being forced to have both of my brains talk to each other. I guess leaders of USA and China don’t need to do the same.

    Yet, at times, I wonder what good does it d to have both of my brains talk to each other, just as it is the case for Minister Yeo.
    Do we not understand both our left and right brains both love to fight to win and dislike fighting at the same time?

  4. I believe these words are intended for Lee Hsien Loong to hear. But too bad, unlike his father, Ah Long dislikes you so much and will continue to put you in the dog house. The “angmoh” cliques are steadfastly controlling the PAP right now. You should entice Lee Wei Ling to form a new party to counter Ah Long. The only person this “Adou” son of LKY is afraid of is his own younger sister.

    So, Donald Trump is from Wharton and he can’t be stupid? George W. Bush is from Yale, a world class institution, too. I wonder how much Fred Trump had donated to get his son enrolled into Wharton. I wonder if Donald and George got into their respective schools through their own efforts and good grades. I saw some rich and super-rich idiots and A-holes in Stanford. But I should be grateful, though, they helped me quite a bit with my career because I had helped them with their school home works.

    “He has assembled an impressive group of people to help him.” I see Trump has surrounded himself with a group of like-minded white supremacists. There is no question in many people’s mind that Donald Trump is influenced by his father, a KKK member. Fred Trump was one of the seven men who were arrested on Memorial Day in 1927, the Ku Klux Klan marched in Queens to protest that “Native-born Protestant Americans” were being “assaulted by Roman Catholic police of New York City.” The Long Island Daily Press said that all seven arrested were wearing Klan attire.

    When Trump says he wants to make “make America great again,” (this mantra actually came from Steve Bannon, his Chief Strategist and white supremacist), he is actually talking about “make America white again.” Make America great again implies America is no longer great but there was a time when America was great. When pressed by the TV reporters what time period they were referring to when America was great, both Trump and Bannon described a desire to return America to the 1930’s and 1950’s. They were basically referring to a time before Civil Rights Movement when the world revolved around the wishes of white people, especially white men.

    Under Trump, I see Samuel P. Huntington’s clash of civilizations is going to pick up momentum. He is not only picking to clash with the Islamic civilization but also that of the Confucian civilization. I suspect not only your wannabe angmoh Prime Minister Ah Long, the equivalent to Adou of the Western Han Dynasty, is beginning to sense it, even Shinzo Abe, the so-called closest American ally in Asia, is beginning to sense it. America has almost nothing left to confront China but its military might.

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