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New cold war between US and China unlikely: prize winner Tang Prize

Historian, sinologist and writer Wang Gungwu gives a online speech as a Tang Prize winner in Sinology. Image courtesy of Tang Prize Foundation

Singapore, Nov. 22 (CNA) A new cold war between the United States and China similar to the one between the US and the Soviet Union in the 20th century is unlikely, but a rivalry may be inevitable, Wang Gungwu (王賡武), the Tang Prize laureate in Sinology, said recently.

The US might be tempted to follow the same 20th-century strategy to counter China, but it will recognize that the world has changed, leading to a new approach aside from a cold war, the 91-year-old predicted. year-old Wang in an interview with CNA.

The Indonesian-born Singaporean historian, Sinologist and writer was named the Tang Prize laureate in Sinology 2020 in June 2020 for his research on the Chinese world order, overseas Chinese and the Chinese migration experience.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tang Prize award ceremony did not take place until Saturday.

Asked about the state of US-China relations and their potential impact on world order, Wang said the Joe Biden administration has decided to seek alliances similar to those used to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

That “old formula” has been successful in the past, but “it’s like ‘old wine in new bottle,'” Wang said, referring to China as the new bottle and the Cold War strategy as the old wine.

“The temptation to use the strategy to defeat China is great. If that temptation is continued, you could end up with a cold war situation,” Wang said.

However, there appears to be “reluctance on the part of the White House to enforce this policy” and it goes too far with the old method, in part due to the fact that China differs from the Soviet Union, especially in economic terms, he argued. .

The US will have to come up with another way to approach China because it’s a different kind of power, one that’s “more cooperative, more competitive by all means, but avoids being an adversary, avoids making an enemy of China.” Wang suggested.

There may not be a cold war, but “there will be competition, (and) rivalry may be inevitable.”

The ‘Chinese dream’

What the US’s China strategies will look like and how they will affect the world order is hard to say at this point, he said.

“What is clear is that the West, led by the US, wants to keep the current order as it is, to defend what it called the rules-based international order, the free-market economy, and to see to it that the Chinese do not undermine it and replace the current world order.”

China has proclaimed the concept of a “Chinese dream” that some in the West have interpreted as Beijing’s attempt to dominate the world, but Wang doesn’t see it that way.

He said overseas Chinese would be very pleased to feel safe, respected and have restored confidence in Chinese culture and values, and that China is right to preserve the traditions of the past and make them more valued. make by others.

“I can imagine that the ‘China dream’ doesn’t go beyond that. If you can make the world look at China with respect and admiration, that would satisfy the ‘China dream’,” Wang argued.

Win the Tang Prize

Wang was born in 1930 in Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) to scientific Chinese parents, and educated in British Malaya and London. That shaped the scholar and the fields for which he won the Sinology Prize.

“Since the late 1950s, Wang Gungwu has published groundbreaking works on the history of Imperial China, China, and Southeast Asia, and the changing identities of Chinese in Southeast Asia,” according to the Tang Prize Foundation.

As a leading historian of Sino-Southeast Asian relations, he is developing a unique approach to understanding China by examining its long and complex relationship with its southern neighbors.

Wang told CNA that he was honored to receive the award, and praised the founder of the Tang Prize, Samuel Yin (尹衍樑) for recognizing Sinology as an important field of work and the foundation for a broader view of Sinology.

Sinology, or Chinese studies, encompasses not only literature, history and philosophy, but also other aspects of Chinese governance tradition, new methods of governance, new types of families, new types of societies and China’s industrial revolution, he said.

“Given that, [Sinology] cannot be limited to what is in the past and belongs to museums. You want it to be something alive, dynamic and changing. You need a different kind [Sinology].”

The Tang Prize is a biennial award established in 2012 by Yin, chairman of the Ruentex Group, to honor people who have made prominent contributions in four categories: sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology, and the rule of law.

(By Elaine Hou and Elizabeth Hsu)

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