Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on the End of Globalization

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The golden age of globalisation has passed, and a fundamental shift in the way the world operates is occurring, according to Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

Though countries have not fully retreated into protectionism, geopolitical tensions are increasingly influencing businesses, Wong said during a discussion at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on Monday night, specifically referring to strained relations between the United States and China.

Wong, on the other hand, stated that Singapore and the rest of ASEAN desire a balanced engagement with both the US and China, and that the two countries should engage with the area “on its own merits,” rather than through the lens of a US-China connection.

The golden age of globalisation has passed, and a fundamental shift in the way the world operates is occurring, according to Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

Though countries have not fully retreated into protectionism, geopolitical tensions are increasingly influencing businesses, Wong said during a discussion at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on Monday night, specifically referring to strained relations between the United States and China.

Wong, on the other hand, stated that Singapore and the rest of ASEAN desire a balanced engagement with both the US and China, and that the two countries should engage with the area “on its own merits,” rather than through the lens of a US-China connection.

Previously, the logic was that countries did not have to be friends in order to do commerce with one another. Indeed, the objective was that “the more we trade and invest in each other, the less geopolitical rivalry there will be,” Wong added.

“Remember the McDonald’s hypothesis that there will be no war if there are McDonald’s everywhere?” That was history, and that was the end of history.

So now a different logic is at work… the golden age of globalisation that we have seen in the last 30 years since the Cold War’s end has definitely ended, and we are entering a new era, one defined by more geopolitical contestation.”

If these trends continue, the globe will become more violent and fragmented, he claims.

U.S.-China tensions and business
Wong stated that Singapore will continue to work with both the US and China without taking sides, and that a possible meeting between the two leaders is positive.

“With that ability to come together to meet in person, there will be an ability to establish a new mode of operation between the two countries, recognising that the world is big enough for China and the United States, and the two countries do not have to define their relationship in adversarial terms,” Wong said.

He warned of the consequences of such a connection on the perspectives of younger generations in the United States and China.

And if there is no way for people to connect and communicate with one another, it is extremely easy to depict the other side as the bad person while we are the good folks. And both parties do it.”

PC: BS

And if you have a whole generation of people growing up thinking that way, what happens in 50 years, 30 years? That is something I believe we should be concerned about.

The conference’s corporate executives concur that the growing schism between the United States and China is bad for business.

Look at it in the mirror from the other side. “China just went through an America shock,” remarked Cheah Cheng Hye, co-chairman of Value Partners Group, a Hong Kong-listed fund management firm, during a conference panel.

The Chinese generation born probably in the last generations idealised America and the American way of life. It is a huge shock for Chinese people today to be rejected by America and subjected to racial profiling; there is a lot of disillusionment and a lot of ‘what do we do next?

Though constructive engagement does not preclude “rigorous competition” between the two countries, Wong believes that working together will be helpful, particularly in areas such as climate change and pandemic response.

Ng Kok Song, founder chairman of Avanda Investment Management and former chief investment officer at Singapore’s GIC, said during a panel discussion at the conference that the United States and China have benefited from their financial interdependence.

According to Ng, studies suggest that many S&P 500 American companies have benefited from China’s expansion in terms of both revenue and scale.

Similarly, the Chinese have welcomed Western capital and financial institutions into their market, according to John Studzinski, vice chair and managing director at American investment management firm Pimco.

When asked for a timetable for his succession as Singapore’s new prime minister, Wong declined, citing more important issues such as the high cost of living, a likely economic slowdown next year, and the threat of new Covid pandemic mutations.

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