Lee Hsien Loong. (Photo/Xinhua)
Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of Singapore, said at a seminar in Tokyo on May 22 that China and Japan will probably go to war against each other within the next 20 years according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a Japanese-language newspaper focused on financial, business and industry news.
During the seminar, Lee said that the United States, China and Japan will all be influential to the development of Asia over the next two decades. Lee said that the United States will still be the world's most powerful nation by that time, saying that the United States is going to stand up again just like it has always done before.
Lee said, however, that China will still be the most influential nation in the Asia-Pacific region and that Chinese enterprises will come to dominate the global market.
A report from the World Bank stated that China is likely to become the world's largest economy by the end of this year. Over the next 20 years, China's military is set to be as influential as its economy, according to Lee. At the same time, Japan will retain its position as Asia's second most important nation, he added.
With confidence in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic reform, Lee agrees that Japan is still a major player in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, he stated that there are some common problems which China and Japan must face together. First, both nations must try their best to increase production efficiency and secondly, more women executives should be hired to support the economic reforms of both nations.
According to Lee, nationalism among the public in China and Japan is the toughest issue the leaders in Beijing and Tokyo have to face. Lee said that there are two possibilities for the future of the region, one bright and one gloomy. If things go well, both China and Japan will be willing to work with the United States to maintain regional stability and prosperity, he said. China will have the stronger military but will choose to restrain itself while Japan successfully improves its economy, he added.
The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership can serve as the main platform to bring China, Japan and the United States together, Lee said at the seminar. At the same time, he said that there is the possibility of a more gloomy future for Asian countries as well, in which China will refuse to cooperate with Japan and other nations in the region, adding that as China begins to expand its influence in the region, nationalism and protectionism are two major obstacles for Asia to develop its own free trade system.
If the more gloomy predictions becomes reality, eventually, China may go to war with Japan over the disputed Diaoyutai (Senkaku or Diaoyu) islands in the East China Sea or other Asian countries over disputes in the South China Sea under the influence of nationalism. For this reason, Lee said that it is better for the United States to continue its presence in the region. With the assistance of the United States, Lee believes that many parts of the gloomier future can actually be avoided, which will be the only way to maintain peace and prosperity in Asia.
Lee Hsien Loong 李顯龍