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Some in West always put 'own interest first'

By Yang Han in Hong Kong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-09-05 14:02

Some Western powers will sacrifice others in pursuit of their own interests and the world will pursue multilateralism even if the United States intends to reverse the trend, according to a Singaporean scholar.

"The West will always put its own interest first," said Kishore Mahbubani, distinguished fellow of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore.

For example, the West sacrificed India, which was the world's largest democracy during the Cold War, to support a dictatorial state in the rivalry with the Soviet Union, Mahbubani said, warning that Hong Kong people should not be used as pawns in somebody else's struggle amid the recent protests that have rocked the city.

"Whenever the world's No 1 emerging power is about to become bigger than the world's No 1 power, geopolitical contest breaks out. This is normal in history," said Mahbubani, who is also the founding dean of the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

"But the danger is that other people can be used."

Mahbubani was speaking in Hong Kong on Tuesday for the launch of his latest book, Has the West Lost it? A Provocation. The book discusses whether the West has deviated from the correct path it should be taking.

In the dialogue session held during the book launch, Mahbubani shared his view on China-US trade relations.

"The lack of clarity of what the US wants to achieve (through the negotiation) causes a lot of problems and therefore we will see a lot of ups and downs," said the veteran former diplomat who was with the Singapore Foreign Service for more than 30 years, including serving as Singapore's permanent representative to the United Nations.

If the main goal of the US is to reduce trade deficit, then the issue can be resolved since China is willing to cooperate. "But if the goal of the American negotiators is to decouple the US and Chinese economies, then that is a different thing," he said.

In addition, Mahbubani said that though the US has been trying to reverse the trend of globalization, the world is still going in an opposite direction in pursuit of multilateralism, which he thinks is critical for promoting peaceful development and joint cooperation around the globe.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Speaking to China Daily after the book launch, Mahbubani said it is "amazing "that China has been able to greatly improve the living conditions of its people.

"China's social and economic development record has been spectacular. No society has lifted as many people out of extreme poverty as China has done in such a short space of time," said Mahbubani, noting that in the past 40 years in particular, the living conditions of the bottom 50 percent of the Chinese mainland population have been improved more than at any other time in Chinese history.

"The world should recognize and applaud China for its success...there is nothing more liberating than being liberated from extreme poverty," Mahbubani said.

"The reason why the global human condition has been improved so much is because the most populous country - China - has experienced spectacular improvement."

However, though the last three decades have been the best 30 years for the bottom 50 percent of the population on the Chinese mainland in history, it has not been the same for the bottom half of the Hong Kong population, he said.

Mahbubani added that Hong Kong can achieve and develop good public housing systems for its people, but it will require a very strong consensus among all the elites in the city.

"I must say I sympathize a great deal with the police officers in Hong Kong. They've been trying to do a good job under very difficult circumstances." said Mahbubani, referring to how the city's police force has been handling violence and vandalism during the protests.

While peaceful and legal protests should be allowed, Mahbubani said the only response to vandalism is to "implement the laws of the society very strictly".

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