China warns PM Lee over South China Sea

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

An opinion piece was published on the Global Times, cautioning PM Lee Hsien Loong with regard to what he said during his recent official state visit to US (http://opinion.huanqiu.com/shanrenping/2016-08/9262616.html).

The Global Times is a daily Chinese newspaper published by the People’s Daily news group, which is the biggest newspaper group in China. This news group comes directly under the purview of the Chinese Communist Party.

News published by the group frequently provides direct information on the policies and viewpoints of the Chinese government. The Global Times was created to focus on international issues from the Chinese government’s perspective. As such, opinion pieces featured in Global Times carry considerable weight in representing the position of the Chinese government.

The piece published on 4 Aug, started by saying that President Obama had given PM Lee a grand reception, usually reserved for leaders of big countries and American allies.

“Naturally, words uncomfortable to Chinese audience were spoken (at the reception). For example, Obama praised Singapore as an ‘anchor’ of US presence in Asia,” the writer commented.

The writer observed that prior to this, only Japan and Australia are known as America’s “two anchors”. Now that Singapore has been put “side by side” with Japan, this clearly is beyond what most Chinese people would know about Singapore, he said.

Lee’s flattery to Obama does not concern us

“Lee Hsien Loong addressed Obama as the American ‘first Pacific President’. Such flattery (‘戴高帽’) given to Obama directly is nothing to us (‘倒也没啥’),” writer said.

“The key is he praised the American strategy to ‘re-balance Asia-Pacific’ and publicised that all Southeast Asian countries welcome such American ‘balancing’. Because the ‘rebalance Asia-Pacific’ strategy is pointed at China to a large extent, Lee Hsien Loong is clearly taking side already.”

However, the writer did acknowledge that with regard to the recent international ruling on South China Sea, PM Lee also said that Singapore recognises the need for big countries to protect their interests and understands why “some countries do not necessarily want to resolve the dispute by way of arbitration”.

The writer further noted that Singapore as “a little red dot on the map”, views Indonesia and Malaysia as “giants eyeing” (‘虎视眈眈的巨人’) on Singapore. As such, it heavily depends on the US for security. But at the same time, it doesn’t want to offend China, especially when China is its largest trading partner. The task of toying (‘玩弄’) with balance becomes important. And when it couldn’t handle the balancing at times, its instinctive reaction is to “grab hold of American fat legs” (‘抱美国粗腿’).

The writer criticised Singapore for wanting everything. While toying with “balancing”, it would occasionally jab China – at least the ordinary Chinese people view Singapore’s actions with discomfort. As the contention between China and US intensifies in the South China Sea, the case of Singapore standing with the US may become more likely.

“We believe Singapore would not be willing to choose sides as it certainly would not be compatible with Singapore’s interest,” the writer added.

“If Singapore completely becomes an American “pawn” (‘马前卒’) and loses any of its resilience to move between US and China, its influence will be considerably reduced. Its value to the US will also be greatly discounted.”

China: Our tolerance also should have a limit

“With regard to the difficult position Singapore is in, China, on one hand, may have to be broad-minded. Let us use big country way to resolve problems between China and US. And with regard to Singapore, this ‘little red dot’ which sometimes is forced to look up to US (‘被迫多看几眼美国的脸色’), we do not need to overly fuss about it (‘我们不必过度计较’).”

“But on the other hand, our tolerance also should have a limit (‘我们的包容也应是有底线的’). Singapore should not push it (‘新加坡不能太过分’). It cannot play the role of taking the initiative to help US and South East Asian countries to go against China over South China Sea matters. It cannot help American “rebalancing Asia-Pacific” strategy, which is directed at China’s internal affairs, by ‘adding oil and vinegar’ (‘添油加醋’), thereby enabling US to provide an excuse to suppress China’s strategic space as well as providing support to US.”

The writer also said that it’s not too much to ask Singapore for such a request, because Singapore, at the same time, is a friendly country to China.

“Singapore can go and please the Americans, but it needs to do their utmost to avoid harming China’s interests. It needs to be clear and open about its latter attitude,” the writer said.

Peace and stability to Singapore is extremely important. In this case, Singapore’s balancing act should be to help China and US to avoid confrontation as its main objective, and not taking side so as to increase the mistrust between China and US, he added.

Singapore clearly has failed to do this by a long shot (‘新加坡显然远没有做到这一点’), the writer concluded. He gave the example of Singapore allowing US to deploy its P-8 reconnaissance aircraft to Singapore, which is a link to increase the tension in South China Sea.

“Singapore needs more wisdom (‘新加坡需要更多的智慧’),” he concluded.

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