Forge closer ties with Asian countries, deputy minister implores China amid US tensions

R. Loheswar
Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong said Beijing should free itself of ‘zero-sum thinking’ and help create new rules for a multipolar world and not be defined as a China-US binary, in an opinion piece published in the South China Morning Post. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 — China should not use their ongoing trade rift with the US as a driving force to exert their dominance over other nations, but rather forge ties with other Asian nations who share a common interest with them.

Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong said Beijing should free itself of ‘zero-sum thinking’ and help create new rules for a multipolar world and not be defined as a China-US binary, in an opinion piece published in the South China Morning Post.

“China continues to rise in both influence and significance, and will definitely play a major role in international relations in the decades to come. To a large extent, its choices will shape the future of the region and it is my fervent hope that Beijing will not choose to define the world as a China-US binary,” wrote Liew.

“But the first lesson to learn about the multipolar world in which we now live is that each nation has its own agency, its own interests and its own preferences. So, it is all of us who will shape the new world order and press the “reset” button together. One example of this change can be seen in the warming relations between Japan, a US ally, and China, despite rising US-China tensions over the past two years.”

Liew said smaller nations in the region including Malaysia are not interested in getting drawn into a rivalry with big nations and when China exerts its dominance over these smaller nations it creates anxiety.

He said the region needs more cooperation, not more competition especially when China has shown it can hold its own ground against the US. He urged China to break free of such a dichotomy and forge ahead with other Asian nations, without behaving like a big power.

Liew also said that people in Asia must rediscover their postcolonial spirit of asserting their own Asian identity, through which all nations, whether big or small, claim as their own.

“Much as we are tempted to see the world within the binary of great power competition between China and the US, we must not forget what we collectively learned during the post-war period, which is that each postcolonial state, especially those in Asia, is an independent nation possessing its own agency with the power to decide its own destiny.

“We did not become proxies for the big powers during the cold war and we do not wish to become anyone’s proxy today.

“And if China can keep itself free of zero-sum thinking in its strategic approaches, act as an Asian brother and help create new rules for the multipolar world that has emerged so clearly this year, that would be even better,” Liew said.

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