Just before PM Lee making his official visit to China, the Global Times in China published a controversy piece of news over its website. #1
Is this a misinterpretation as what our Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained? Or, deep in his heart, should PM Lee see this as a warning to himself or worst still, a slap on his face prior to meeting the new leaders of China.
New leaders always come with 3 fires (新官上任三把火). This is the first time that PM Lee meets President Xi Jin-ping and Prime Minister Li Ke-qiang in their respective new capacities. As an outsider, it is not our business to know (details) how Chinese choose their leaders. However, PM Lee’s remark on Diaoyu Islands in Tokyo in May 2013 is a very sensitive issue in China. A wrong remark or misinterpretation can easily lead to strong emotional reaction. It is understandable after the publication of the ‘misinterpreted comment’, strong reactions are expected from netizens in China.
Singapore MFA had no choice but to make the following statement:
[Using a sensationalist headline, the article took Prime Minister Lee's comments completely out of context and grossly distorted and misreported what he said. Such unprofessional reporting is unhelpful and could harm bilateral relations and affect people-to-people ties. #1]
It blamed the Global Times and the Global Times said they just carried the same piece of news from Ta Kung Pao. They can blame each other but the timing of the publication looks more like a warning to PM Lee, in Chinese it is 下马威. Before landing in Beijing, let’s warn you over the internet first indirectly and ‘unofficially’.
Both Ta Kung Pao and the Global Times are mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party.
Ta Kung Pao (大公报) is a pro-communist newspaper in Hong Kong #2, so do the Global Times in China #3.
Just imagine SINGAPOLITICS #4 publishes some bad news about our neighbours, for example, the haze problem or the crimes happening there. What will the foreign governments and their netizens think? How will they interpret it? Can SINGAPOLITICS claim that they are independent and are just a private identity under Singapore Press Holdings?
PM Lee and MFA, of course, can claim that this is just an isolated incidence by non-official news website in China. They can even say these are social media in China, like the (mistrusted) social media in Singapore. Deep in the hearts of Chinese and Singaporeans, do (they and) we really interpret in such a way? Is it just simply a ‘completely out of context and grossly distorted and misreported’ news over internet?
Back in Singapore politics, the phrase ‘completely out of context and grossly distorted and misreported’, in fact, looks quite familiar. Can you recall some of the past incidences? It needs no further explanation.
If this can be used as a political excuse to do some things, to serve some purposes, why can’t it be used as a warning or even a slap just before the Beijing visit?
Besides enjoying his visit in China, PM Lee should think very hard what really his hosts are trying to say? Wrong interpretation or misinterpretation from the Singapore side has to be equally weighted and taken into consideration seriously.