Asian Insider video: China, US and the art of competition

WASHINGTON – China should be careful not to underestimate the United States, former Singapore diplomat Professor Kishore Mahbubani cautions in a new book “Has China Won?”, out this year.

There is a strong bipartisan consensus in Washington DC against China.

But, as veteran, and legendary, American diplomat Dr Henry Kissinger told Prof Mahbubani, the US has made a mistake in launching a geopolitical contest against China without first working out a strategy – and that gives China an advantage.

“But at the same time… it will be a big mistake for China to underestimate the United States because it has been the strongest and best performing society through most of the 21st century… and has always shown a remarkable capacity to recover,” he told The Straits Times’ Asian Insider video and podcast.

“So, China should not underestimate the power and capability of the United States,” he said.

Professor Mahbubani, a former Singapore Ambassador to the UN, was speaking with ST’s US Bureau Chief and Asian Insider host Nirmal Ghosh, alongside Washington-based Dr Satu Limaye, Vice President and Director of the East-West Center.

American should focus on its own internal challenges – including its growing income inequality – before taking on an “unnecessary geopolitical contest” Prof Mahbubani said.

“We have very mixed messages,” said Dr Limaye.

“We have not settled on a strategy. Even if there is a bipartisan elite consensus on the growing challenges of China this is not necessarily shared everywhere in American society.”

China had been a very modest subject of discussion during the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate debates, he noted.

Yet the contest with China was real, inevitable, and would not go away – but it need not become a kinetic conflict, he added.

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