Sunday, 23 October 2016

China-Singapore Relationship in Hot Water? And our foreign minister can't help.

Two published commentaries in the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao confirmed China-Singapore relationship is not as good as before.

# Tommy Koh talks about China’s four misunderstandings (Singapore not a Chinese state, support ASEAN, foreign policy towards big countries, and different world views)

# Wang Gungwu’s looking back to understand the future that China must understand Singapore’s self-image as a multicultural nation with a global outlook.

Is this a coincidence two commentaries appearing at the same day, from Koh’s misunderstandings to Wang’s understanding? What do they want to tell their readers? Not to worry, just a misunderstanding and China needs to understand us to improve the relationship.

Both Koh and Wang stress that even though 75% of Singapore population are Chinese, we are a multicultural and multiracial society.  Does it mean we don’t need to understand (master) Chinese to understand China?  

Have they mentioned anything about our foreign policy and the work done by Singapore’s foreign ministry?

It is very obvious that after the departure of George Yeo, the two foreign ministers are just part-time ministers as they also hold other important portfolios. When a ministry without a calibre minister, this is the expected outcome. One will wonder why PM Lee Hsien Loong does not appoint a ‘qualified’ minister to head the foreign ministry.

Before talking about the fourth generation leadership, we may have to seriously searching for a suitable foreign minister. So far, none of the potential ‘six’ has the calibre. Or maybe Ong Ye Kung who talked about short and long history in Beijing recently ("We cannot over-rely on history because it was not too long ago in history that Singapore did not exist," ). Ong also stated our position: "A small country needs a world order that respects and abides by international law and the sanctity of contracts and agreements,"

Is Ong’s short-long history different from Wang’s looking back to understand the future?

After all, we want China to understand we are small, we are multicultural and we want others to respect international orders.

Are these thinking up-to-date? Or is this a stagnation thought, a cold war thinking?

China’s development is a world history. The world order is no more a bipolar. Chinese domestic politics will affect how it interacts with the world.

Xi Jinping now emphasized not only the defense of territorial sovereignty and maritime resources but also increasing China’s cultural influence and improving regional security cooperation. He is less interested than previous Chinese leaders in abiding by the liberal economic order and more interested in molding the international order to match Chinese interests.

The two commentaries have not discussed Singapore’s own problems: attitude of new citizens, declining Chinese proficiency, lack of foreign affairs/Chinese experts, …

When Xi is promoting Chinese cultural influence, he is, in fact, targeting our weakest point. This is very different from participating at a singing contest in China!

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