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Singapore Urges U.S. to Accept China as Competitor

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 5/17/2019 Glen Carey and Philip J. Heijmans

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore urged the U.S. to allow China to have a greater say in shaping global rules to avoid a prolonged clash that could force smaller countries to choose between the world’s biggest economies.

Speaking to an audience in Washington on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said it won’t work to view China as an adversary that must be contained and called for “constructive competition” between the superpowers. A world that splits into rival blocs would jeopardize gains made under the U.S.-led world order over the past 70 years, he said.

Vivian Balakrishnan wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Key Speakers and Interviews at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum © Bloomberg Key Speakers and Interviews at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum

Vivian Balakrishnan

“My appeal to the United States is to double down, reap the rewards together,” Balakrishnan said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Singapore wants both a sustained U.S. presence, which we believe is positive, and we also want China to be able to assume its rightful place as it develops and becomes a superpower in its own right,’’ he said.

China is highly unlikely to undermine the U.S.-led global system given it has been one of its biggest beneficiaries, Balakrishnan said. However, he added, it’s “an entirely legitimate expectation on the part of China” to have the right to revise global rules since it didn’t have a say when they were first written decades ago.

Failure to strike a deal will disproportionately impact trade-reliant countries like Singapore, he said, adding that protracted talks have already created "great uncertainty and volatility for the markets."

“For us in the middle, especially for small countries, we do not wish to be forced into making invidious choices,” Balakrishnan said. “So we hope that both sides will work out a strategic response and take into account China’s increasing influence and weight in the international arena, and that both sides will find a way to accommodate each others’ legitimate interests.”

(Corrects proper name of organization in third paragraph of story published May 15.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Glen Carey in Washington at;Philip J. Heijmans in Singapore at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at, Daniel Ten Kate

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