In the article The Myth Of US-China Economic Competition two weeks ago in these pages, Professor Linda Lim provided us with a trenchant and level-headed analysis of the economics underlying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the advent of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the designation of the yuan as a reserve currency.
Prof Lim suggested it was a mistake to view these developments as instances of “intensifying political contention between a supposedly declining superpower and a ‘rising’ one” or in terms of a “US versus China battle for hegemony in the Asia-Pacific”. The TPP, AIIB, and yuan as reserve currency all have economic logic of their own that do not necessarily translate to the kind of zero-sum competition between the US and China that has been hyped up by the media and some analysts.
I agree with much of Prof Lim’s economic analysis but I feel her article underemphasises the politics behind these economic developments. Like all good social scientists, she anticipates this objection in the final paragraphs of her piece, as when she acknowledges that hegemonic aspirations are not absent and that the US and China do compete for global influence.
Khong Yuen Foong is Li Ka Shing Professor of Political Science at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. This article was first published on The Straits Times on December 30,2015.