Let me quote what he said in his article, ‘Hang together or hang separately?’ published in the ST on 12 May. I think as an academic his comments would not draw another strong protest from China for meddling with China’s internal affairs and not having to qualify that he is speaking in a personal capacity.
‘Asean has to take a firm stand on the SCS not because it wants to favour one claimant over another, but in order to protect the integrity and unity of the 10 member organization. If Asean shows that it is susceptible to any kind of external interference, it would lose its credibility and in the process declare itself “fair game” to any external powers. Benjamin Franklin’s advice that “we must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately” is particularly pertinent for the Asean leaders.
The above comment emphasizes integrity and unity of Asean and the assumption that Asean as a united block can take on a big power as an equivalent of a big power. Talking about integrity of Asean is laughable since Asean discarded the concept of a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality. When Asean countries started to become allies of big powers, providing military facilities for big powers to exert their influence in the region, signing military alliances with big powers, engaging in warfare on the side of big powers, the integrity of Asean as a neutral block of countries is already a big question mark.
Asean unity? Asean as a united block too is an aspiration rather than a reality. There are the pro US and pro China camps within Asean.
What is more naïve is to think that Asean, acting together as a block, would be a force to be reckoned with against big powers like the USA, PRC or India. Such big powers would give Asean a kick in the arse when they deemed fit and when their interests are challenged. The insanity of small countries thinking that they can punch above their weight or a small half past six regional block taking on the big powers can only be found in Asean countries. Some wanting to go to war with China, some wanting to push China out of the South China Sea. The most realistic of the Asean countries, and the most powerful militarily, having fought and defeated the Americans and a border war with China, understood what it is like to take on China in war.
The only chance for Asean to hang together is to add on the American factor, to hang together with the Americans and go and fight wars all over the world with the Americans. Other than this reality of joining the international gangster, punching above your weight is only possible when the big powers graciously allows you to do so, partially also to cater to their interests. When their interests are at stake or violated, you will be punching a hard rock. And the weight of a mustard seed against a big rock is not difficult to comprehend.
Singapore is praying very hard to hitch a ride on the Chinese economic locomotive and is best not to be too cocky and indiscreet in taking sides when China’s core interests are involved. Yes, Singapore is a non claimant state in the SCS. Why is Singapore crying out loud everyday when the other claimant states are lying low? Oops, it is not Singapore that is ruffling the feathers of China, but individuals speaking in their private capacity. And pray China would not because of these casual remarks by individual Singaporeans and cut off Singapore from the Chinese gravy train.
Where are these anti China rhetoric coming from? What is the agenda?