The Global Times has called on Beijing to send a lower level delegation to the Shangri-la Dialogue next year. Describing the security summit held yearly in Singapore since 2002 as a platform Singapore built for the US and Japan, the Chinese newspaper said in a June 11 editorial that China has no reason to show support for it.
China sent a delegation led by a Lieutenant General which the paper felt was “still a bit too high”.
Pointing out that the country in recent years has sent fewer officials for training in Singapore, it saw it as another sign of the decreasing influence of the country over China.
Hence, it said, China needs to take a normal attitude toward Singapore swinging between the US and China.
The paper welcomed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s “positive remarks” about the Belt and Road initiative. It referred to Lee’s interview with Australia’s ABC Radio National where he described the initiative as a constructive way for China to integrate with other countries as Beijing’s influence in the region continues to grow. The Prime Minister said Singapore supports Belt and Road as well as the Asian Infrastructure Bank.
The Global Times went on: “Since last year, China and Singapore have witnessed a cooling relationship due to the latter’s siding with the US and Japan regarding the South China Sea issue. The detention of nine armored vehicles of Singapore in Hong Kong added to the chill in the bilateral ties. Seven heads of state and governments of ASEAN countries participated in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held last month in Beijing, but Lee was absent. This sparked more controversy.”
The paper saw Lee’s remarks as a sign of his “willingness to turn around the Sino-Singapore relationship”.
As one of the core US allies among ASEAN countries, Singapore has long faced the difficulty of balancing between China and the US alongside Beijing’s rise, it added. As the country tries its best to strike a balance between the two sides, it tilts toward the US when a balance is impossible, it said.
“The reason for its choice is that as a small country sandwiched between two giants – Indonesia and Malaysia – Singapore’s security is very fragile, and it has to rely on the US for the greatest security guarantee,” it added.
“Lee’s positive comments on the Belt and Road are welcome. No matter what the Singapore government said and did previously, Beijing can move forward with it. It is the generosity a big country should have.
“On the other hand, Singapore may not abandon its flip-flop diplomacy and China needs to be prepared for this. Singapore’s diplomatic thinking is hard to change shortly. Lee Hsien Loong is less adept at balancing diplomacy than his father Lee Kuan Yew, and geopolitical competition in Asia nowadays has become more complicated. Therefore, Singapore is confronted with more difficulties.
‘Singapore is a former colony of Britain. Its dependence on the US, not so special compared with other ASEAN countries, is driven by pragmatism of safeguarding its own interests. As China grows more powerful, it (Singapore) will naturally readjust the balance between China and the US.”