ASIA will continue to grow for decades to come barring conflicts or war but the region faces inherent instability which the United States can help mediate, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
Mr Lee, in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said that if a nation was a group of people with a shared language and culture, none of the Southeast Asian countries could be considered nations, and that diversity was a source of recurring tension that the governments needed to handle carefully.
Meanwhile, China and India are facing their own problems with structuring their economies, with the former likely to still take time to find the 'right tone' to engage the international community.
For instance, while the US has in recent weeks put pressure on China to revalue its currency to ease American woes, Mr Lee said such a move was in China's own interests to avoid a showdown with the US and all its global partners. 'China is still far from being a developed country,' Mr Lee said, and still needs foreign and American expertise in building up.
'Both have much to gain by working together and much to lose if they collide with one another. The two economies are intertwined,' Mr Lee said.
America's role, he said, was to help maintain a stable environment, which would serve its own economic interests far better. That's why it should continue to stay engaged in the region, Mr Lee said. 'It's important for Asia to have a balance of players where the interests of all parties, big and small, are taken into account.'
Mr Lee noted problems in neighbouring Malaysia which is trying to find its own path to prosperity but is having to reform a system in which affirmative action is heavily entrenched. 'If you want to change to meritocracy, even the choice of words to describe what you are trying to do is a very sensitive matter,' he said.
In Chicago, Mr Lee also met mayor Richard Daley and appeared on Chicago Tonight, a popular local televised talk show hosted by Phil Ponce. He spoke briefly of US-China relations, China's race to economic growth, and again defended Singapore's policies and rebutted suggestions of nepotism.
'My wife (Ho Ching) is CEO of Temasek. . . It's not because I appointed her, the board appointed her, there are processes, due diligence. . . She is there on her own merits,' he said.
With Ms Ho looking on in the television studio, Mr Lee said: 'She is not there because she married me. I married her because she is that sort of person who is capable of doing something.
- end of BT article