Asia’s Fate in Two Speeches
The leaders of Singapore and Sri Lanka have two very different outlooks on Asia’s future but both take a dump on great-power rivalry
Two new speeches from Asian leaders, given within a week of each other, explains a lot about the complexity of Asia at the moment.
The first is from Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, delivering remarks to the Asia Future Summit. As is typical of Singapore, it was bullish on Asia while warning/chiding others against messing up a good thing.
The second is from Ranil Wickremesinghe, the new president of Sri Lanka. His speech at the Berlin Global Conference this past week was urgent, realistic, and grim.
Singapore’s Lee has sharp insights about the immediate sources of international order but a blind spot when it comes to whom order most serves. He also naturalizes “great-power competition,” which tends to work against the interests of small states like his.
Sri Lanka’s Wickremesinghe draws our attention to not only root-causes of instability in the region, but also to how the global systems we’ve made require the Periphery to eat shit so that the Core can eat steak. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it is.
These speeches, worlds apart, make the most sense together.
So below, I’m going to pull-quote a few passages from each and offer some annotated commentary on how to read what they’re saying.