Fear of competition behind Singapore’s new port criticism

By Wen Dao Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/21 0:43:39

A new harbor worth 43 billion Ringgit ($9.73 billion) is set to be built in the Malacca Strait, expected to overtake Singapore as the largest port in the region. Melaka Gateway, co-developed by China and Malaysia, will be a milestone project in China's "Belt and Road" (B&R) initiative, marking an elevated relationship between both countries and injecting new energies into the world's busiest waterway. However, the port has raised questions in Singapore, which suspects that China would turn the port into military use.

The Singapore-based Straits Times quoted an expert in a recent report, saying the new port is a "strategic element of the Malacca Strait," and China's advancement always "starts with an economic presence, which can develop into a naval one."

Singapore's skepticism, argue some Chinese experts, comes from concern about the competition the new port could cause to Singapore. By ramping up hyperbole over the military, Singapore wishes it could arouse more opposition against the project, especially in Malaysia.

Singapore, like many skeptics of China's economic activities overseas, has underestimated the judgment of the Malaysian government which embraces China's willingness to cooperate. If the seaport will put the country at costly geopolitical risks, how could Kuala Lumpur agree in the first place and believe in its prospects?

Singapore's stir has led to a question that has been debated for a few years - Is China's growing economic presence along the "Belt and Road" meant to serve China's so-called hegemonic ambitions?

The B&R initiative is a landmark proposal China is advancing for greater interconnections between members of the international community.

It is designed to be a major impetus to globalization that will benefit both developing and developed worlds in a more appropriate way. But it has been depicted by Western media as a reflection of China's ambitious rise to hegemony. Singapore has never understood what is different about China's rise.

The naysayers' skepticism is entirely based on speculation. China has no intention to turn its overseas economic investments into military bases. The only political purpose for China's massive investments is for other countries to find a gateway to understand China is a contributor to the world economy and global governance rather than a dominator in international affairs.

It takes time for the rest of the world to overcome the inertia of the profound China threat theory, and understand and agree on China's advocacy. Seaports like Melaka Gateway, high-speed rail like the Jakarta-Bandung railway and many other projects China is engaged in will serve as vanguards to demonstrate its commitment to joint development.

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