The new British PM Boris Johnson (aka BoJo) is regarded by many as just like US President Trump. The original Trump in return has excitedly praised BoJo for being tough and smart and, in a roundabout way of self-complimenting, said “they call him ‘Britain Trump’ and people are saying that’s a good thing”.
Good thing or not, time will tell. But one thing for sure, the unorthodox, flamboyant and unpredictable style of the new UK PM will certainly add more uncertainty to an already volatile world. A world where while the US-China trade war does not seem to end in this generation, Japan and Korea are entangled in a brewing trade dispute that threatens to aggravate the current global economy.
Indeed, BoJo shares some common traits as Trump. Both came from famous good schools, belong to the elitists, rise to power when their countries are vulnerable and appoint family members to the government. But most worryingly, they are known to shift their stance on policy decisions.
In an interview with Hong Kong-based Chinese broadcaster Phoenix TV, BoJo claimed to be pro-China. This though, was declared before he became British PM. After what happened with Trump, who exhibited signs of goodwill before turning hard and nasty against the Chinese, China will be foolish to trust BoJo totally. And given the extremely close ties between US and UK, it won’t be surprising to see UK taking a tougher stand against China. But throw the Brexit issue into the mix and things just get more complicated. BoJo’s flip-flop style doesn’t bring much assurance.
Though UK and US are thousands of miles away from Singapore, decisions made by their leaders on trade and economy transcend boundaries. Singapore trades with everyone – US, UK, China, Japan and Korea all included – and we rely on open trade, international rules and multilateralism to do business. Once big countries adopt protectionist measures, decide to trade on their own rules, or pressurise smaller countries to “not friend” their enemies, Singapore will be in a very precarious position.
While we cannot control what happens in other countries, what Singaporeans can do is to ensure the continued stability domestically. In times of extreme uncertainty, we need steady and experienced hands to helm our trade and economy, we need deep understanding and deft handling of complex, sensitive geopolitical and international relations, and most importantly, we need a united people willing to work with the government to overcome challenges together.
Some countries, because of their sheer size, history, the political and government system and a strong, influential private sector, can survive even when their people gamble their countries’ fate with untested leaders or leaders with little achievement to show. Singapore, unfortunately, does not have this luxury. Nothing in Singapore happens by chance and we may not survive if we decide to roll the die and leave things to fate.