SINGAPORE – A former diplomat in Singapore said on Wednesday that the Biden administration will likely maintain its tough rhetoric against China.

But it remains to be seen whether the administration will listen to other countries in the region before implementing its policies towards Beijing, Kishore Mahbubani, now a distinguished fellow at the Asian Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia. “

“I think there is absolutely no doubt that the Biden administration should look very strict about China,” he said, adding, “This is very clear because there is a strong bipartisan consensus within the United States that the time has come for the United States to stand up to China.” .

He made his remarks on Wednesday morning during the Asian hours before Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The US-China relationship has worsened dramatically under the president Donald Trump The two superpowers have fought a trade war and compete for technological supremacy. In some cases, the United States has sought to lure countries to their side against China. But in Asia, especially Southeast Asia, Beijing’s economic and political influence remains powerful.

“The important thing here is will the Biden administration listen to countries in the region before it implements any policy toward China?” Mahbubani said. He explained that if the Biden administration begins to listen, it will discover that there is a very strong consensus in East Asia.

“Yes, you have to be firm and strong about China, but we also have to come to terms with China. We have to work with China. We want our economies to recover from Covid-19. So this is the message you will receive,” Mahbubani said.

The US Capitol is set up for the inaugural ceremonies of President-elect Joe Biden as American flags are placed on the ground at the National Mall on January 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Joe Ridel | Getty Images

“At the end of the day, I am really optimistic that behind the very strong rhetoric, there is also an understanding in the Biden administration that they have to work with the rest of East Asia. Frankly, also work with China on critical issues like climate change for example.”

The United States returns to Asia

Under the Obama administration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was one of the cornerstones of America’s Asia axis. Trump pulled the United States out of that agreement when he first took office in 2017.

The remaining 11 countries in the TPP continued to renegotiate the agreement and signed A comprehensive and progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) in 2018. Last year, China and 14 other countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Which has become the largest commercial bloc in the world, covers a market of 2.2 billion people and $ 26.2 trillion in global output.

As such, the United States is not engaging in any of the mega trade deals involving most of Asia’s prominent economies except India.

Mahbubani said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “a gift to the United States because it was a means to consolidate the American presence in East Asia, to ensure that China does not control this region.”

He explained that the unfavorable domestic attitude in the United States towards free trade agreements, even those that could be beneficial to the country, would make it difficult for Washington to join the new CPTPP.

“To play a truly pivotal role, the United States must find ways and means to return, perhaps in a very subtle and indirect way, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Mahbubani said.

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