Don’t be rattled by negative news reports of S’pore-China ties: Chee Hong Tat

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It is in Singapore’s interest that China succeeds, says Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information (MCI), Chee Hong Tat.

“It is in our interest and in the region’s interest that China succeeds,” Mr Chee said. “We believe that a successful China is good for the region, and this has been our longstanding and consistent position.  Although sometimes there may be occasional differences over how our two countries view certain issues, this is only natural even between close friends and neighbours.”

The minister made the remarks in his speech at the Future China Advanced Leaders Programme Commencement Ceremony at Mandarin Orchard Singapore on 26 May.

While not referring to any particular news items, Mr Chee’s remarks were apparently made with regard to recent reports about the supposed spat between Singapore and China.

“Some people read media reports and are concerned about Singapore’s relations with China, and asked if Singapore should align more closely with China,” Mr Chee said. “A few have suggested that by doing so, China would not be investing in our neighbouring countries to compete with Singapore.”

He said this “is a simplistic and flawed conclusion.”

“The Chinese are investing in our region and beyond to enhance their connectivity and energy security,” the minister explained. “Their decisions are guided by their national interests. Singapore enjoys close cooperation with China over the years.”

He acknowledged that “sometimes there may be occasional differences over how our two countries view certain issues”, but said that “this is only natural even between close friends and neighbours.”

He cited how the Chinese press here had “noted how some parties had once again tried to exaggerate negative news on Singapore-China relations.”

“We should not be rattled by these tactics,” the minister cautioned, “and should instead focus on further strengthening our bilateral ties with China at different levels and with different provinces – between government leaders, between businesses and between our people.”

He said that Singapore has always “assured China that we value our bilateral links and we would like to see them grow and develop, and we hope they would use their growing power and influence to benefit the region’s stability and prosperity.”

“This is why we were early and strong supporters of “Belt and Road” initiative, AIIB and many other initiatives by the Chinese which promote more openness, connectivity and win-win partnerships,” Mr Chee said.

He said Singapore’s value to China – or any other major power – will ultimately depend on whether Singapore can continue to be a vibrant, successful city-state with stable political leadership; whether it remains a trusted and credible country which upholds its commitments and adheres consistently to international laws; how it is able to understand and connect with both the East and the West; and how Singapore integrates free and open markets with good social development.

“If we have no relevance to others or nothing that they can take reference from, no one, including China and other major powers, will pay attention to us,” he said. “This is the reality in geo-politics.”

The minister said that while Singapore has worked with China in the early years of its reform and opening up, and Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping built up a close relationship that formed the foundation of the two countries’ bilateral relationship today, “we cannot take this for granted and must constantly work on enhancing the close cooperation between the two countries.”

“Speaking the same language, sharing the same cultural traditions and having ancestors who came from the same village several generations ago can be an advantage, but they are not going to get us very far if that is all we have to offer,” Mr Chee said.