What is geopolitics and how it will affect youths in the long-term

For better or worse, geopolitics has the potential to make a large impact on the world’s economy and security. Here are some things youth should know about it.

Tricia Kuan

A tiny coffee addict with a really weird frog obsession.

Published: 28 February 2023, 10:20 AM

When it comes to geopolitics, one example which comes to mind may be US-China relations, and how increasing tensions over the years have affected the world in various ways.

In the fourth episode of the What The Future (WTF) podcast by the National Youth Council’s (NYC) Asia-Ready Exposure Programme (AEP), hosts Germaine Tan and Avery Aloysius discussed the topic with two guests: Dylan Loh and Pearl Forss.

Dylan Loh is an assistant professor at the Nanyang Technological University’s Public Policy and Global Affairs programme, while Pearl Forss is an executive producer at Channel News Asia. 

The podcast is done in partnership with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Hosted on NYC’s YouTube channel, this 33-minute episode delves into what geopolitics is and what it means for the future of youths in Singapore, especially in the context of US-China relations. Here are some of the main takeaways from this episode:

1. US-China relations have greatly impacted the world’s economy and overall sense of security

One of the most obvious impacts US-China relations have made can be seen through the state of the global economy, Prof Loh shared. 

He pointed out that when former US President Donald Trump first started the trade war during his presidency, it made a negative impact on stock markets and investor sentiments. These issues have persisted to this day.

Having an open economy, Singapore naturally becomes affected when there is a crisis in the global economy, Prof Loh said. 

This is especially so in terms of job prospects, wage growth, the type of industries Singaporeans can enter, and the probability of retrenchment.

However, he added that it would not be accurate to say that the economic crisis is solely due to the US-China relations.

Other structural issues such as the Ukraine crisis and global inflation are also factors that have contributed to the instability in the economy.

All this being said, Prof Loh felt that the stabilisation of US-China relations would definitely be a precursor to global economic recovery.


“When China or the US sneezes, the rest of the world will catch a cold,” said Prof Loh. PHOTO CREDIT: PEXELS/PIXABAY


Another issue brought about by geopolitical tensions is a lower sense of security. With social media, youths who are constantly bombarded with the unfolding tensions consequently view the world as less prosperous, secure, and friendly.

“All this adds to the anxiety youths may feel today … when geopolitics are discussed on social media, it’s distilled into very short sound bites that are not historically anchored and doesn’t allow for thorough analysis,” he shared.

2. Geopolitics affects global issues such as climate change and security

Ms Forss shared that one of the ways geopolitics has made a global impact is through climate change. 

As the US and China are two of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, whether or not this pressing issue can be improved would depend on whether the two countries could talk it out, she said. 

Another rising concern is the way military spending by countries such as Japan and India have been increasing, despite the world having just emerged from a pandemic.

“There were millions of people impoverished during the pandemic. We have to deal with climate change. There are so many other things that we need to address (but) so much money is going to missiles and firearms,” Ms Forss added.


Germaine shared that for many years, it seemed to her as if the nations had been on the brink of yet another world war. PHOTO CREDIT: PEXELS/PIXABAY


Despite this, both Ms Forss and Prof Loh feel that tensions between nations have not been so rampant in recent times.

“…I think that when President Xi and President Biden met in Bali recently, I think everyone heaved a sigh of relief,” Ms Forss shared.

In fact, youths should appreciate that despite the happenings around the world, statistics show that they are currently living in the most peaceful period in history, assured Prof Loh.

3. ASEAN countries will never openly choose a side between China and the US to maintain a state of balance

When it comes to “choosing sides” between China and the US, Prof Loh remarked that Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states indirectly make such choices in ways such as military, security and economy.

“Even if you don’t think of your decision as choosing a side, it will be politicised or seen as that because the narrative has been promoted so strongly by various people,” he said.


Prof Loh also highlighted a distinction between ASEAN member states and Southeast Asian states, which affects how various countries make decisions and deals with China and the US. Photo Credit:UNSPLASH/ARY PURA


To add on, Ms Forss said that many Southeast Asian nations are engaging with projects not just from China and the US, but also from other countries as part of the belt and road initiative.

This helps to maintain a state of balance in the relations between the various nations, China and the US.

4. Youths should care more about ASEAN geopolitics

Although youths may have no direct say when it comes to ASEAN geopolitics, it’s still essential to have a level of awareness about it, Prof Loh said.

This is important as Singapore claims ASEAN to be the cornerstone of its policy.

Hence, more should be done to encourage youths to gain an understanding of ASEAN as an entity, and the countries within said entity.

Some ways this can be done is to introduce ASEAN-related content into the curriculum on a primary, secondary and tertiary level.


With ASEAN states being Singapore’s most immediate neighbours, many events in its political sphere will make an impact on Singapore, said Prof Loh. PHOTO CREDIT: UNSPLASH/ARISA CHATTASA


Moreover, Prof Loh hopes that podcasts such as WTF can also speak at a level that connects with the youths as they will be the ones who will lead Singapore in the future.

Ms Forss encourages youths to start getting involved in geopolitics in small ways, such as exploring the ASEAN nations for themselves.

“Take advantage of the culture, vibrancy and beauty all around us. Go backpacking around the region, talk to people. You may not get into politics immediately but you can always get a sense of the country’s economic growth and culture first,” she said.

You may like these