Singapore—Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong held nothing back as he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the whole world needs to work together to find solutions for the current coronavirus crisis, particularly the United States and China.
Acknowledging that the relationship between the two superpowers—currently the two biggest economies around the globe—was already fraught even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Singaporean Prime Minister stressed the need for the US and China to put their differences aside to focus on finding solutions.
“If you are going to deal with this situation, you’ve got to get all the countries working together, particularly the US and China. Under the best of circumstances it’s going to be a very difficult challenge for mankind. But if the US and China are swapping insults and blaming one another for inventing the virus and letting it loose on the world, I don’t think that it is going to help us solve the problem.”
Noting that the United States has in the past taken the lead in organising global responses, including in relation to curbing the spread of infectious diseases, and that at present, under the leadership of President Trump, it does not seem that interested, Mr Zakaria asked PM Lee, “What happens with the absence of US leadership? Can the world organise itself without some kind of agenda-setting at least?”
The Prime Minister acknowledged the US’ leading role in the past, but said that “if America is in a different mode, I think that we will get by and other configurations will eventually work out, but it will be a loss.”
When asked if he preferred to see America emerge as a leader in this issue, PM Lee firmly replied in the affirmative, because the US has the science, influence, soft power, “as well as the track record of dealing with these problems convincingly and successfully” for the greater good, not just for their country. He called it “a pity not to put these resources to work now, to deal with “this very grave challenge.”
PM Lee also told CNN that he does not expect the coronavirus to go away in the next few months, given that it has already taken a few months to bring the crisis “more or less” under control in China. And for Europe and America, it will take a while still.
“And there are other huge parts of the world where we don’t quite know what is happening, but it will happen,” he added.
“It will happen in India, it will happen in Southeast Asia, it will happen in Latin America. So by the time it goes around the world and finally runs its course, I think that’s several years, unless something happens to abort that process.”
Mr Zakaria told PM Lee that this crisis has caused many people to want him to stay on, and asked him, “Could this crisis somehow make you postpone that decision to leave politics?”
PM Lee smilingly replied, “This crisis keeps my hands full. Let’s just focus on that for now.” —/ TISG
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