On 19 January 2021, the United States, and China Programmes within the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at RSIS jointly held a workshop titled “Great Powers Exceptionalism: Sino-American Conceptions of World Order” at Hotel Park Royal, Singapore. The workshop was attended by a select group of guests, with more than 40 local and overseas participants joining online.
Speaking at the workshop were Prof Steve Walt from Harvard University, Prof William A. Callahan from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Prof Gerald Chan from the University of Auckland, Asst Prof Evan Resnick from RSIS, Asst Prof Peter Harris from the Colorado State University, Asst Prof Courtney Fung from the University of Hong Kong, Mr Bilahari Kausikan the Middle East Institute, and Mr Drew Thompson from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
The speakers shared the view that both the United States and China regarded themselves as exceptional powers and that both countries wanted to procure greater international influence. However, their core strategic goals were not compatible and as such there was much competition and rivalry. So long as the United States does not attempt to change the political regime in China, both countries could continue to co-exist and compete.
Moving forward, both the United States and China are likely to find it difficult to decouple from each other while continuing to compete. This is a new political reality and both countries would attempt to hold their ground in this competition. It is unlikely that China could replace the United States at the global apex due to pushback against Chinese ambitions. The world is likely to witness a more assertive China and a more transactional America. Few countries will permanently align with either on all issues. The global order will constantly shift, arranging and rearranging along the central axis of US-China relations. The world is likely to witness a messy multi-polarity.