By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
SCMP reported today a radio interview of PLA Major General Jin Yinan with state-owned China National Radio (CNR). He had called for Beijing to impose sanctions and to retaliate against Singapore so as to “pay the price for seriously damaging China’s interests”.
He accused Singapore of taking an active role in turning the South China Sea dispute into an international issue in recent years and added that Singapore had advised Washington on the matter and had stirred up conflicts between the US and China.
“It’s inevitable for China to strike back at Singapore, and not just on the public opinion front,” the PLA General said. “Since Singapore has gone thus far, we have got to do something, be it retaliation or sanction. We must express our discontent.”
Singapore playing with fire
The PLA General also criticised Lee Kuan Yew, saying he had given advice to US President Barack Obama, that caused Washington to turn its “pivot to Asia” into “the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific”.
He said the senior Lee had lost Beijing’s respect. “We understand [Singapore] has to survive among big countries,” General Jin said. “But now Singapore is not seeking balance among big countries – it is playing big countries off against each other … this is playing with fire.”
In the interview, he highlighted the strategic value of Singapore’s Changi Naval Base to the US military, saying it was the reason America called Singapore the US navy’s “third anchor” in the Asia-Pacific region, after Japan and Australia. He questioned whether Singapore was really remaining neutral between China and the United States.
By opening the base, Singapore was helping the US to establish a presence in an area crucial to China’s oil imports as a large part of the oil supply to China has to pass through the Straits of Malacca.
“Singapore claims it is a non-aligned country and its Changi Naval Base is an open port. But why don’t you invite the Chinese navy to berth at it?” he asked.
Major General Jin is the Director of the Strategic Research Institute at the PLA’s National Defence University and an influential defence adviser to the Chinese government.
It is significant that his views were broadcasted by CNR as CNR is the official radio station of the state and the Chinese Communist Party. Mao Zedong once emphasized that all citizens should listen to the station. When the People’s Republic of China was established, CNR was the driver in pushing all schools, army units, and public organizations of all levels to install loud public speakers and radio reception base.
Spat between China Global Times and Singapore Ambassador Loh
The Major General’s remarks came after a recent spat between China Global Times, a newspaper under the People’s Daily, and Singapore Ambassador Loh.
On 21 Sep, Global Times carried an article saying that Singapore had raised the issue of the disputed South China Sea at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit held in Venezuela on 18 Sep. It added that Singapore had “insisted” to include an international tribunal’s ruling on the waterway, which was in favour of the Philippines, in the summit’s final document.
Singapore’s ambassador to China, Stanley Loh, rejected this and wrote an open letter stating that the news report was “false and unfounded”. Mr Loh said the move to include the international ruling in NAM’s final document was a collective act by the members of the ASEAN.
But the editor-in-chief of Global Times, Hu Xijin, came out to stand by his paper’s report. Then, the Chinese government also came out in support of Global Times, not buying Ambassador Loh’s arguments.
When a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman was asked at a regular media briefing about the tiff between Global Times and Singapore, he blamed an unspecified “individual nation” for insisting on including South China Sea issues in the NAM document. Global Times may be hawkish in its stance, but its messages are a transmission from within the heart of CCP power, SCMP said.
Chinese analyst urge Singapore to adjust its policies
Xu Liping, senior researcher on Southeast Asia studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China expected Singapore to be a neutral mediator between China and the countries of Asean, and did not want to see disputes over the South China Sea raised in a multilateral platform like the NAM Summit.
And that was why China was so angry over Singapore’s active moves in broaching such a sensitive topic, he said.
“If Singapore does not adjust its policies, I am afraid the bilateral relations will deteriorate,” Xu added. “Singapore should think twice about its security cooperation especially with the United States, and strike a better balance between China and US.”
On Thursday, the overseas edition of People’s Daily also published an online commentary, saying Singapore “has obviously taken sides over South China Sea issues, while emphasising it does not”.
In other words, China is accusing the Singapore government of saying one thing but doing another – a hypocrite.