Stanley Loh dragged out all the economic cooperation and projects as his proof that Singapore is supporting China or is friendly with China. He side stepped Singapore’s military cooperation with the Americans, providing a military base for the Americans to launch warships and warplanes into the South China Sea to challenge China’s claims to the islands. He also did not mention the political rhetoric or statements by our diplomats against China that are more vehement than even those from the Philippines and Vietnam recently.
On the economic front, Singapore wanted all the cooperation and benefits from a growing Chinese economy. But on the political and military front, the position of Singapore is anything but friendly. The comments by Bilahari Kausikan in his speech in Tokyo and his lectures must have ruffled the feathers of the Chinese govt. Would Bilahari or Stanley Loh think the comments were fair, neutral and positive for Singapore China relations?
Singapore is sticking its neck out, too far out for comfort, by taking a pro American line. The local media too were putting up almost on a daily basis, American views of the South China Sea dispute that were unflattering to China. How would China view these actions from Singapore, supposedly a reliable and close friend with a lot of economic cooperation, economic projects and a lot of legacies of LKY when he was around? Would China be seeing a major shift in Singapore’s policy since the demise the LKY and a Singapore that is increasingly partisan and anti China instead of walking the tight rope, not to be seen to favour either super power?
What would Singapore’s position be like should the Americans open a war front in the South China Sea against China and Singapore providing a military base for the Americans to attack China? Would Singapore maintain its neutrality by closing down the American base here, or would Singapore say it is ok and it is neutral and still a friend of China and allowing the Americans to launch military attacks at China?
Is the rude and undiplomatic comment that China is attempting to divide up Asean in the South China Sea dispute helpful when the other Asean countries were diplomatic enough to keep mum when they have vested interests and stakes in the dispute while Singapore did not?
The complaints in the Global Times are just a tip in the iceberg of the souring of relations between Singapore and China. There could be official complaints to register China’s unhappiness that were not reported in the media.
Singapore is now in a fix, and would have to make its stand clear to China. Is it going to be neutral or more pro America, more anti China on matters that affect China’s core interests and how would Singapore’s relation with China proceed from here? A diplomatic storm is brewing and it does not look good for Singapore. Singapore may be left out in the cold in China’s OBOR projects and other economic cooperation as well. Trying to hang on to China’s gravy train and taking unfriendly positions against China would not work. Singapore cannot have the cake and eat it.
There is no LKY to smoothen things out in our relations with a China that is growing in strength and confidence to deal with small countries. Don’t try to punch above your weight when dealing with China or any big powers. That is a myth. When the big powers refused to give you face you will look silly in the eyes of the world if you try to punch in their face.