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Why war 'by design' over Taiwan is unlikely: Bilahari Kausikan

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South-east Asian countries appreciate there is no strategic balance in the region without the US, so they will find ways to deal with whoever is in the White House.

Synopsis: Every fourth Friday of the month, The Straits Times' global contributor Nirmal Ghosh shines a light on Asian perspectives of global and Asian issues with expert guests.

How South-east Asia - situated at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific - sees and navigates growing tensions between China and the United States, is little understood outside the region. 

Views of China in the region are mixed, with recent surveys showing that China is seen as a valuable partner, and yet not trusted. There is an appreciation that dealing with the US - whoever occupies the White House - is critical as Washington is seen as a strategic balancer. 

Meanwhile, as the US deepens and expands an architecture of alliances across the Asia-Pacific, China has fewer friends and allies and has done little to assuage countries’ concerns over what is, despite Beijing’s professions to the contrary, seen as its hegemonic tendencies. 

The United States’ support of Israel’s actions in Gaza, has also not gone down well in the region, which is dotted with either Muslim-majority countries, or countries with significant Muslim minorities. 

In this episode of Asian Insider, Nirmal hosts Bilahari Kausikan, famously forthright former Permanent Secretary and former Ambassador-at-Large at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Now the chairman of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, Bilahari lays out the regional perspective, and explains why - despite the real risk of an accident between the US and China over Taiwan - a war by design between the two big powers, is highly unlikely. 

Highlights (click/tap above):

2:47 China: Neighbour with great opportunities yet displays hegemonic tendencies

4:01 Anxieties about Chinese behaviour and the US' balancing acts

7:05 "War by design between the US and China is highly unlikely": Bilahari Kausikan

11:27 "The Global South represents a mood rather than any coherent convergence of interests"

13:43 "To deal with China, you have to deal with the US"

14:10 Why the US does not bear the burden or pay any price to uphold international order

Produced by: Nirmal Ghosh ( and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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