Singapore China relations – Open split?
The verbal war between Singapore and China does not seem to subside and Singapore is upping the ante with another article by Kwa Chong Guan belabouring the point that China has been pressuring Singapore and ‘to influence and shape the opinions and actions of Chinese Singaporeans’. In his article appearing in the Today paper on 14 Oct titled ‘China’s unrealistic expectations of overseas Chinese’, Kwa Chong Guan traced the history of Chinese involvement in the MCP’s fight for the independence of Malaya and Singapore and the subversive role in local trade unions and political movements of the past.
Kwa Chong Guan made it very clear that ‘the Straits born Chinese, who did not think of themselves as huaqiao and did not identify with China’ did not agree with the strategies of the MCP. He then went on to relate to the MCP activities of early Malaya and Singapore days culminating in the Non Aligned Movement spat as another of ‘China’s attempt to shape the opinions and interests of the Chinese community in Singapore about Chinese interests’. Kwa drew a clear distinction in the modern Singaporeans and the Singaporeans of yore, that the new Singaporeans have no special affinity to China like their forefathers.
The new Singaporean entrepreneurs investing in China did not go there because of the historical attachment to China but purely based on ‘hard business investment’. They did their investments not depending on ‘guan xi’, in other words, Singaporeans are principled, abiding by international laws when doing business in China and would not want to be treated differently. Kwa also emphasized that ‘Singapore…has to stand firm against demands by the ancestral homelands of Singapore’s diverse ethnic communities for their loyalty.’
As Singapore keeps on harping on the Chinese govt making demands on Singapore on racial affinity, how would this affect Singapore’s relations and investments in China? Would the trips by Hsien Loong to the USA, Japan, India and Australia have anything to do with the open split between Singapore and China? Is Singapore telling China to lay off and Singapore has other alternatives to invest, in the US, Japan, India and Australia and Singapore and China can go their separate ways henceforth?
The regular display of unhappiness by Singapore seems to be an official position, no longer someone speaking on his personal capacity. And most of the speakers airing this dispute hailed from one school of thought, the Rajaratnam School of International Studies. The notables making tough and flamboyant speeches on the SCS and demanding China to respect the ‘UN backed’ Hague rulings all came from this School.
The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policies has been quite silent on this spat. Maybe they are dealing more with local policies and issues and not international matters. With the tempo of this spat gaining strength, it would be interesting if Lee Kuan Yew is still around and whether he would be wearing his favourite Chinese jacket during important official functions with great pride. Or would he be returning to his suit and tie to show a change in policies to be less dependent on China and more cosiness with the West
Lee Kuan Yew was a straits born and every inch a baba. As he grew up he rejected the name Harry Lee given to him by his grandfather. He did not name Hsien Loong and Hsien Yang and Wei Ling with English names like Peter, Simon or Jane. He also sent them to Chinese schools. What did all these said of this straits born Chinese? He was not the banana that one encounters in the island. He was not the typical straits borns. The straits borns are not a homogenous group. There will be the bananas that think highly of everything western, there will be those that are proud of their ancient civilisation.
And how would those wanting to be friendly to China be belittled as unacceptable? Being friendly to China is not the same as being a traitor to Singapore, going against the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans. The New Zealanders, Australians and many white colonised countries did not feel ashamed to be pro America because they were whites. Why should straits born Chinese feel ashamed to be friendly to China if they did not compromise Singapore's interests?
This episode is really Singapore punching above its weight, taking on China head on, demanding China to obey The Hague rulings, to obey international laws, to protect freedom of navigation and to be principled, as if China is doing and acting to the contrary. Needless to say, diplomatically, it is rubbing China up the wrong side and the open spat would not go away just because Singapore is punching above its weight.
Where would all this lead to in Sino Singapore relations?