Nov 18, 2021 06:36 PM

Sino-U.S. Tensions Increase Chances of Taiwan ‘Mishap,’ Singapore’s Lee Warns

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: New Economy Forum
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: New Economy Forum

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned the likelihood of “mishap or miscalculation” across the Taiwan Strait has increased due to the rising “tensions and suspicions” between China and the United States over the Taiwan issue.

“We should be concerned, I don’t think it’s going to war overnight, but it is in a situation where you can have a mishap or a miscalculation and be in a very delicate situation,” Lee said in an interview with Bloomberg Wednesday during the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore.

Lee’s comment came after Chinese President Xi Jinping met his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden in a Tuesday video summit, during which the two leaders made an effort to stabilize the tense bilateral relationship.

The China-U.S. summit was a “necessary beginning” for the two countries to resolve their “many and deep” differences which go “beyond individual issues to basic mindsets,” Lee said.

“They are not going to be resolved in one meeting or one deal. But it’s good that the U.S. and China could make some understanding,” he added.

On the Taiwan issue, Lee noted that both sides have ramped up activities with Taiwan, with Washington increasing its engagement with the Taiwan authorities while mainland warplanes are challenging the island’s air defenses.

“All these moves raise suspicions, tensions and anxieties, and make it more likely that a mishap or miscalculation can happen,” he said.

When asked about the trend of decoupling between the world’s two largest economies, the prime minister said a global economy will continue to exist. However, he said that “I do not see the rivalries disappearing ― they could get worse. But neither is it possible for the Siamese twins to be separated.”

“You are too interdependent on one another, and it is not possible to say: ‘I make my own system and you make yours’,” Lee said.

Also appearing at the forum via video link, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said China will “keep its arms wide open” to foreign investment and work with others to drive global growth.

Meanwhile, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at the forum that the country will not join the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, but it will pursue tie-ups with its partners in specific areas such as supply chains.

In a recent interview, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged that the Biden administration is considering lowering some of its tariffs on China to help ease domestic inflation, according to U.S. media reports.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg and the Straits Times.

Contact reporter Lu Zhenhua ( editor Michael Bellart (

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