After leaving politics, Mr. George Yeo has been working for Hong Kong’s Kerry Logistics (HK: 0636) till his recent retirement. With his wide network of friends and having lived in Hong Kong for a period of time, his understanding of China and Hong Kong cannot be understated.
At a recent Forum entitled “New Game: China and the United States relations” held in Hong Kong, he reiterated China’s stance that she is prepared to concede “more than halfway in the ongoing trade conflict, but the ‘rather robust’ US negotiation techniques sometimes make it difficult for the nation to meet these demands”.
In addition, China’s oft-repeated strategy of not wanting to escalate the conflict while refusing to be bullied or humiliated is clear for all to see.
The US imposed a new round of an additional 15 percent tariffs on US$112 billion worth of Chinese goods came into effect on 1 September, which highlights the rising tension between both sides while another 15 percent tariffs on another US$160 billion of Chinese imports will take place on 15 December.
The tit-for-tat moves have taken place for more than a year, placing undue worries and uncertainties on the global economy.
To stress that China will not be bullied into submission, the second largest economy of the world then hit back with a set of tariffs worth US$75 billion kicking off also on 1 September while some others will take effect on 15 December.
This time, however, some products of Apple Inc. will be hit while goods such as toys and clothing have been dragged into the fray.
Mr. Yeo then opined that the outcome from the impending negotiations in September and beyond will depend very much on the US presidential election in November next year. US President Donald Trump will have to decide “whether it is in his interests to reach an agreement in order to get re-elected”.
He added that “The mood against China in the US is toxic. I have never seen it so bad,” suggesting that the fear of China replacing the US as the superpower in the world is driving the negative sentiment.
While he believes that China does not harbour the intention of dominating the world, he also warned that the “Chinese do not appreciate seeing Americans interfere with other countries around the world”.
He then told of the risk that how rivalry between two major powers, which if turned racial, could lead to a tragedy that may take generations to overcome the bitterness and hatred. Such a scenario, he warned, must be avoided.
On China, Mr. Yeo advised that she has to do a better job of explaining itself to the world in order to avoid misunderstandings in addition to how a country with different systems from the West could do just as well.
He also believes that the trend towards a multipolar world may unnerve the West as the West have grown accustomed to Western domination for centuries. This trend, in his views, have arisen out of countries in Africa and Asia suggesting that they would be more comfortable finding their own way to the future while learning from past and present case studies.
He also forecasts rising tensions that could be volatile, citing examples from Huawei and ZTE becoming whipping boys of the Americans in the trade war disputes. However, Mr. Yeo thinks that Huawei will only become stronger through this experience.
On the impact that such tensions would have on peripheral countries, Mr. Yeo explained, “Countries like Singapore, many companies and even families, will be put under great stress because of this rivalry between the US and China.”