Babylon is Falling: Why the West doesn’t get it

If you want to understand Asian geopolitics today, watch George Yeo, former Singaporean cabinet minister. Highlights::

The US has little knowledge of China

“the US political system is decentralized and because of the need to win votes, it goes through emotional phases and is entering such a phase now where China is demonized out of mass emotion. There’s some manipulation behind the scenes, but it’s not based on knowledge.”

The US “don’t understand the nature of China”, the fact that China “is constantly building walls around itself because it is happy in its own homogeneity”. He says it is wrong for the US to believe that “China wants to displace them as the top dog in the world” and “trying to contain China, even pull it down” as a result. Not only is this a wrong understanding of China’s objectives but the US “may exhaust itself in the process and I don’t think it will succeed”. He says that with its tariffs and sanctions the US risks making the same mistake as China’s Qing dynasty and “become very weak”. 

The primacy of the US dollar will break, and US actions are “bringing forward that day”

“the key event will be when the primacy of the US dollar breaks. We all know it’s going to break sometime or other because it’s abnormal. If it is 30 years from now, well, let’s drink and be merry. But if it’s five years, well, we’ve got to calculate, right? Do we know when the cookie will crumble? We don’t know. But the way the US is moving is bringing forward that day.”

It’s “bringing forward that day” because “they try to control countries by sanctions” and as a result more and more countries put counter-measures in place, putting themselves out of the grasp of the US.

China is not in trouble and “overcapacity” is “information warfare”

“there’s information warfare against China” and that he “doesn’t think” China is in trouble. “Look at the factories, look at the EVs, look at how terrified the Europeans are, accusing China of having overcapacity. I mean, how can you blame China for overcapacity when you have, when you’re taking liberties with yourself, having long summers and working short hours and you say no, no, no, no, no, you are working too hard! There are consequences. If families take liberties with their children, with themselves, there’s consequences.”

Asian societies’ “wholesomeness” is an advantage versus the West

“Look at Asia, look at China, look at Southeast Asia, look at India. There are people who are hardworking, who are obsessed over their children, who want to have of them a higher education, in order that the kids will have a better education, better health, a better life. […] They’ll do well and we’re lucky to be in the part of the world where strange values have not taken over societies. […] Why is America such a big market for drugs today? And I was watching the Eurovision contest… […] Parts of it, almost satanic. But it’s now part of the fashion in most of Europe. What is happening?

PM Lee talked about how we should keep all these woke things away from us as much as possible. (This is a problem for me – he equates woke with left-wing progressive stupidity, not justice.) Keep our societies wholesome. Keep our families intact. I mean, AI is very important, but AI cannot answer moral questions for us. In the end, it is every individual, every child who must make the choice. Be immersed in technology. Make use of it. But have our own sense of what it means to be a human being. So if we use that as a template to judge human society, I say we are very lucky to be in a part of the world where society is by and large wholesome and will do well.”

It’s critical for ASEAN to stick together and not be balkanized

“If we [ASEAN] don’t stick together, we’ll be balkanized and instead of becoming neighbours, become clients of big powers. Instead of using them, they make use of us. There’s always a threat.

Look at the Philippines now. The Philippines have legitimate disputes with China. Both sides have their cases. The Americans see an opportunity there. And jump in, and bring in the Japanese. And now Philippine politics is caught up in this […]

[China and the Philippines] had an agreement, a gentleman’s agreement with Duterte, which Marcos has repudiated. So OK, so they must find a new way to equilibrium. And make use of the Americans and not be made use of by the Americans. But it’s very difficult when you try to make use of a big power, you end up being made use of by them.”

Most countries in ASEAN do not want China to be an enemy

“Vietnam has made a very important decision to go with China”: “it was not well reported, but Vietnam has agreed that Hanoi will be linked to Kunming and Nanning by high-speed rail. This is big because each connection is tens of billions of dollars. And will change the topological configuration of logistics and supply chain and human movement for decades to come.”

Same with Indonesia, noting that “Prabowo’s first visit [was] to China” and that when he met Xi Jinping “it was Xiao Di talking to Da Ge. A little brother talking to big brother. But when we went to Japan, then it’s brother talking to brother.”

“Look at the other countries, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei. No one wants China to be an enemy. And the Americans don’t understand this, yet. That because China is getting bigger and bigger for us, all of us want the Americans to be in the room. But if the Americans say no, you have to choose between China and us, then they say no, we can’t. How can we choose? I mean, China is where our bread is buttered, you know.”