US should engage Asia as a partner

Updated: 2012-10-24 07:41

By Ariel Tung in New York (China Daily)

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The US-China bilateral relationship is the most critical in the world, and it's implications are felt across the globe as much as they are within the two countries, said Simon S.C. Tay, a renowned Singaporean political analyst.

In his new book Asia alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America, Tay, a Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the Asia Society's New York headquarters in 2009, says since the 2008 global financial crisis the shift of power between the US and China has accelerated. Tay is also chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, a non-governmental think tank that represents Singapore in the influential ASEAN-ISIS network of regional think tanks.

According to Tay, the crisis has brought about some rivalry, perceived or real, between China and the US.

"Before the crisis there was much more recognition in the US-China relationship. Both China and the US gained from the relationship," Tay said.

No one talked about China's rise as being the US' decline, he added.

But with the crisis and the US suffering from a lack of jobs, more concerns about the future have emerged for US citizens.

The "get tough with China" talk escalated in the 2012 US presidential debate. The US public also expressed concerns about China's growing economic strength and its impact on the US.

In a recent PEW research center poll, about half of the US citizens surveyed said China's emergence as a world power poses a major threat to the US.

Tay said the negative sentiment regarding China's rise has much to do with how people feel when living in uncertain times.

"The world has been living with America's power since the end of World War II. Whether you are in Asia or in America, the change you feel is quite significant."

According to Tay, outsourcing has become a bad word for people in the US.

During the crisis in 2008, a CBS news poll showed two-thirds of US citizens believe trade adversely affects their job security while more than 75 percent feel negatively about outsourcing to other countries.

During this year's election campaigns, both candidates attacked each other over the outsourcing of US manufacturing jobs to China.

During his re-election campaign, Obama has said he would bring more jobs back by reforming the tax code to make outsourcing less financially attractive for US companies.

"America's loss of jobs is not China's fault," Tay said. "It's the natural law of markets and globalization. And American companies are involved in this. It's not China that drives them to outsource jobs."

The trade imbalance between China and the US talked about in the West has always been a cause of tension between the two countries, but Tay said the actual imbalance may be exaggerated based on "an old assumption in measuring trade flows".

Tay is worried that protectionist moves against imports from China and Asia will ultimately hurt both Asia and the US. "The economic interdependence we see in the world is not about 'I win you lose'. The gap between America and other emerging markets is closing."