President Joe Biden paid his first-ever visit to Asia as president this week, conducting a series of summits in South Korea and Japan – both close US allies. He held talks, launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (involving 13 nations) and attended the Quad summit in Tokyo.
But none of the talks included China, the world’s second-largest economy. During the Quad summit in Tokyo, China and Russia just so happened to run military drills with aircraft approaching Japanese and South Korean airspace. Japan called this a “provocation,” but China’s defense ministry called it a “routine” military exercise.
On Wednesday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned against isolating China from regional summits, saying that it would cause problems in supply chains and that it would mean China could play by “a different set of rules.” Loong warned against “reshoring” or “friend-shoring,” which is when countries only build supply chains with friends and allies.
“If US-China relations continue on this path, it will lead to further bifurcation of technology and splitting of supply chains or even worse unintended consequences,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, at Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference in Tokyo. “It’s far better that China’s economy be integrated into the region, than for it to operate on its own by a different set of rules.”
“In response to geopolitical tensions, countries have increasingly emphasized resilience and national security considerations over the economic gains from free trade and investment flows,” said Lee.
“Such actions shut off avenues for regional growth and cooperation, deepen divisions between countries and may precipitate the very conflicts that we all hope to avoid,” added Lee.