Asia Is Key to Easing Sino-U.S. Tensions, Says Asia Society Co-Chair
By Zhang Yukun
As more of the world’s wealth becomes concentrated in the U.S. and China, the two largest economies need to stop fighting and start rebuilding their relationship, and Asia could play a key role, said Asia Society Co-Chair John Thornton at the first Asia New Vision Forum in Singapore.
In 2050, the U.S. and China are expected to account for as much as 60% of the world’s GDP, up from a combined 42% today, Thornton told the audience at the Caixin-hosted event on Monday.
Also by 2050, the world is estimated to add around 2 billion people to the population, with most coming from developing nations in Africa and Asia.
As wealth becomes more concentrated in the U.S. and China, there will be many more poor people in the world, said Thornton, who is also executive chairman of mining company Barrick Gold Corp. and a former Goldman Sachs banker.
“Who thinks it’s a good idea that the two most powerful countries in the world I just described should spend most of their time fighting with each other? That can’t make any sense of any kind in any world,” Thornton said.
“How is this going to get recalibrated? Because I certainly know the toxic environment in my own country very well, and it’s very toxic,” he said, in reference to America. “And the relationship between the U.S. and China is very unconstructive. In fact, at a time when we need maximum communication, we have almost no communication.”
The U.S.-Sino relationship has become increasingly fraught with tensions and disputes since the trade war escalated in 2018. Issues such as the U.S.’ export curbs on chip technology, alleged security threats posed by Chinese businesses overseas, and Taiwan have soured relations further.
Hopes of rekindling the relationship between Beijing and Washington may lie in Asia, said Thornton.
“We need you (people in Asia) to be actively wanting to define the future, (and) no longer be the kind of recipients of, as it were, the wisdom of others, but rather take hold of the future yourself and help define it and drive it,” he said. “Because I’m very confident if that’s the case, the world would be better off for it. The U.S. and China will realize that they’ve got to build a constructive relationship and the whole world will be in a better place.”
If the leaders of other nations are asked who they would side with, “100% of them will say: ‘Do not make us choose. We don’t want to choose between the United States and China. We want to have good relationships with both,’” Thornton said, noting that these countries may be able to let the U.S. and China realize that their fight is unacceptable to the world.
The two-day Asia New Vision Forum, supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Singapore Tourism Board, is the first international forum launched by a China-based media outlet in the post-Covid era. It aims to reflect global, Asian and Chinese perspectives, contribute to important international agendas and exchanges, and help the international business community better understand the real Asia.
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