Fortunately this gap is increasingly being filled by Simon Tay who started to present a more neutral view in the intellectual debate and on what is good for Singapore without becoming a little USA while calling other states as Trojan Horses. Do they know what is a Trojan Horse when they see one, or is one themselves without knowing it?
In his latest article in the Today paper titled ‘How will S China Sea dispute affect business in Asean, Simon discussed the mutually interdependent relationship between Asean and China and how China is taking the initiative in the AIIB and OBOR to improve connectivity and infrastructural development in Asia that would benefit Asean as a whole compare to the military buildup and dangerous provocations by the Americans and Japan that would lead the region to war. Which is the better option going forward, to promote more trade or more wars?
China needs peace and Asean as much as Asean needs peace and China for the good of everyone. Why would Asean take an increasingly hostile stance against China? Why would Asean increasingly align itself to the Americans to promote American military domination in the region? There are great economic and strategic benefits both for Asean and China with more cooperation than antagonism. According to Simon Tay, Asean does not need to be anyone’s puppet but be a worthy partner to key players in the region.
Asean benefits most by being neutral, taking advantage of big power rivalry to improve Asean’s bargaining power and interests. Asean would be doomed if it takes side in the big power conflict. Asean’s recent position, to throw itself into the American camp against China could be a short sighted gambit. By going against China and sucked into the American embrace, what would happen should Donald Trump become the next President and closes its door to Asean in an inward looking policy? Where or who would Asean turn to then? China would be happy watching the fallouts without offering a helping hand.
This is the first time that Asean is taking a non neutral position in big power rivalry against the wisdom of its forefathers. And the champions of taking sides, to be little Americas, are gaining grounds, unchallenged. Is Asean digging its own grave, led by American Trojan Horses strutting around as little USAs?
Simon Tay said these in his concluding paragraphs: ‘Asean can only remain central by pairing its political centrality with economic dynamism and moving ahead with integration. This is the way to better manage bumps and controversies, even sensitive concerns such as the South China Sea, and move ahead on an agenda for integration and reform that all – governments, businesses and ultimately Asean citizens – may partake and benefit.’