Singapore-China relations not a zero-sum game

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On January 9, Vivian Balakrishnan, Foreign Minister Singapore, said in the Parliament, “The diplomatic relations between Singapore and a major powerhouse country China should not be taken for granted. Singapore should welcome Rising China.

“We believe in coexistence, which encourages collaborations between the two countries resulting in win-win situations,” said the Finance Minister. His statement came as a reply to the question regarding the relation between China and Sinapore in the wake of China’s seizure of nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles of the Singapore army in November, 2016. Following the military exercises in Taiwan, the vehicles were held in Hong Kong when they were en route to Singapore.

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Since Singapore is a small country, she will obviously encounter such kind of expectations from other countries, mostly those that are bigger than Singapore, economically and territory wise. “This is real politic,” says Dr. Balakrishnan, “however, it is imperative for the small country like ours to stand as a sovereign and independent nation. Only with a well maintained foreign policy, we can gain international credibility, and show our relevance and usefulness to our partners, neighbours, and friends.”

“International law should be followed, mutual agreements should be respected, said Balakrishnan. “When we emphasise on upholding international law and respect agreements that we have done with other countries, it will benefit all countries. This is very crucial  for long term diplomacy and guarantees the survival of our country.”

In the parliament, the minister spoke on bilateral economic relation between China and city-state Singapore which was established in 1990. Dr Balakrishnan emphasised on Singapore’s support on One China policy. Emphasising on the economic ties between the countries, he said Singapore is China’s largest foreign investor, and China is Singapore’s largest trading partner. There is no need for “Megaphone Diplomacy”

When Zaqy Mohamad, a Member of Parliament (MP), asked about the difference between the Chinese government’s actions and Chinese media’s view on Singapore, the Foreign Minister said that he is not a proponent of “megaphone diplomacy.”

After the Terrex seizure, Global Times, a Chinese daily questioned the growing relation between Singapore and the US and Singapore’s stand on China prowess in the South China Sea.

“I am not in favour of exchanging invectives,” said Dr Balakrishnan, “and conducting affairs that produce more heat than light.”

When MP Zaqy pointed at the complaints made by industry clan associations, the minister said after the seizure, there has not been any formal restriction in Chin for Singapore business communities.

Dr Balakrishnan encouraged continuing people-to-people level interactions on trade and commerce, business and investment, culture and education. He opined that Singaporeans ought to insulate themselves from these kinds of issues that rise time and again. He also added that Singapore is yet to open a dialogue with China over the Terrexes.

“In the best interest of all this issue should be handled properly through legal process,” he said. “Politicising ,or engaging in megaphone diplomacy is not necessary.”
“Let’s have some patience and give this matter time to resolve through an appropriate legal or judicial process,” he urged.

Singapore’s Role In China’s Rise. In the parliament, Low Thia Khiang, the leader of the opposition, asked the Foreign Minister whether China’s economic and military strength is making her “arrogant” and “aggressive”.

“China’s emergence as a manufacturing, service and consumer hub is giving other countries enormous opportunities. Therefore, we must accept and welcome China that is rising, getting politically and economically stronger,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

Singapore is a tiny city-state, a multiracial society, located in the centre of Southeast Asia. According to Dr Balakrishnan Singaporeans must have capacity to interpret things on their benefits. It has a luxurious and state-of- the -art facilities executive condominiums like the The Brownstone , Signature @Yishun.

“From time to time we have to courteously differ. We should remind everyone, irrespective of geography and economy, to let Singapore remain as Singapore,” said Dr Balakrishnan. “Singapore may be small, however, she is an independent and sovereign country. She has her own interests.” Singapore should maintain independence, make as many friends as possible, and stand up against big countries when necessary, he added.

“We cannot remain as the beck and call of any powerful countries. If this means, I have to have a difference with you, let it be so,” said Dr Balakrishnan. “However, I am not against you. I completely support your rising. Just not force us to make hard choice.”

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