Updated: 05/22/2014 20:13

China's growing power, influence biggest change for Asia in next 20 years: PM Lee

China's growing power, influence biggest change for Asia in next 20 years: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says China's growing power and influence will be the "biggest change" for Asia in the next twenty years. 

And countries here are still adjusting to this. 

Even so, Mr Lee expects the United States to remain the world's "pre-emiment superpower." 

With its huge stake in Asia, he says the US has every incentive to engage the region across a broad front. 

The Prime Minister was speaking at the Nikkei Conference in Tokyo this morning on the theme, "Scenarios For Asia In The Next 20 Years." 

Mr Lee identified two scenarios: 

One, a "peaceful and integrated Asia" where Asia remains at peace, with countries working together to advance shared interests while competing peacefully. 

And two, a "riven and fractious Asia," - with tensions between China and the US, and also between China and its neighbours over territorial and maritime disputes. 

Mr Lee says both scenarios are imaginable. 

One key factor he says is US-China relations; both need to recognise the need to work together. 

He says history has shown that the rise of new powers often leads to conflict with the incumbent powers. 

Mr Lee says on both sides, there are those who doubt and distrust the other's intentions. 

He says it will require great restraint and wisdom to overcome this distrust and reach a workable and peaceful accommodation. 

The other key factor is how nationalism develops. 

Mr Lee says if it's a source of national pride and confidence, it'll promote peaceful and beneficial competition between countries. 

But if it becomes virulent, it will fuel insecurity, causing enmity and tensions.

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