By Isabel Reynolds
(Bloomberg) — Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged that China remain integrated in the region, days after US President Joe Biden visited Asia for a series of summits that excluded the world’s second-largest economy.
“If US-China relations continue on this path, it will lead to further bifurcation of technology and splitting of supply chains or even worse unintended consequences,” Lee told an audience at the Future of Asia conference in Tokyo Thursday. “It’s far better that China’s economy be integrated into the region, than for it to operate on its own by a different set of rules.”
Lee’s comments came after Biden paid his first visit to Asia as president this week, holding summit talks in South Korea and Japan, and launching the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a grouping of 13 regional nations that includes Singapore.
While in Tokyo, Biden also attended the Quad summit, a format that includes Japan, Australia and India, and is seen as seeking to counterbalance China’s growing military clout in the region. China protested against the staging of the events, and conducted joint air drills with Russia over the Sea of Japan while Biden was in Japan on Tuesday.
“In response to geopolitical tensions, countries have increasingly emphasised resilience and national security considerations over the economic gains from free trade and investment flows,” Lee said. He warned against “reshoring” or “friend-shoring,” where countries build supply chains only with friends and allies.
“Such actions shut off avenues for regional growth and cooperation, deepen divisions between countries and may precipitate the very conflicts that we all hope to avoid,” he said.
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