Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, opened the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Friday, saying: “Our world is at a turning point. Globalisation is under siege. Tensions between the U.S. and China are growing. Like everyone else, we in Singapore are anxious. We wonder what the future holds, and how countries can collectively find a way forward to maintain peace and prosperity in the world.”
He said that while U.S.-China relations will define the tenor of international relations for years to come, competition should not inevitably lead to conflict. “Some people argue that compromise is not possible or perhaps even desirable, because the U.S. and China hold such different values. Indeed, one U.S. official recently defined the clash with China as 'a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology.' Others observe that the US is a young country that wants everyone to be like them, while China is an old country that believes no one else can be like them.
“To expect every country to adopt the same cultural values and political system is neither reasonable nor realistic. In fact, humankind’s diversity is its strength. There is much we can learn from one another, from the differences in our values, perspectives, systems, and policies. The story of humankind’s progress has been one of exchange of ideas, and continuous learning and adaptation.
“Henry Kissinger said last year that 'we are in a very, very grave period for the world.' No one can predict which way events will develop. At different times in the last two centuries, Southeast Asia has seen rivalry between great powers. It has experienced destruction and suffering from war and occupation. It has been divided into opposing camps. It has seen how isolation from the world economy led to stagnation and sometimes conflict. At other times, it has benefited from international cooperation that created an open, stable environment where countries could prosper in peace.
“On a long view, we cannot rule out any of these eventualities. But in our own generation, we must work together to maximize the chances that countries will have the wisdom and courage to make the right choices, opt for openness and integration, peace and cooperation, and so preserve and expand the progress which we have made together.”
Since its launch in 2002 the Dialogue has aimed to foster practical security cooperation by facilitating easy communication and fruitful contact among the region’s most important defense and security policymakers. Past speakers have included prime ministers and senior ministers from China, India, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and other regional powers, as well as the U.S.