Singapore should manage China ties, avoid US tricks
Published: Jul 22, 2019 08:33 PM
In the latest effort to slander China's relations with Singapore, Washington-based US think tank The Jamestown Foundation  published a report accusing China of using cultural organizations, clan associations, business associations and youth programs to exert influence on Chinese Singaporeans. 

The purpose of China's "influence operations," the report said, is to impose a Chinese identity on Singapore so that it will align more closely with China's interests. As the Chinese Embassy in Singapore said on Friday in a rebuttal statement, the allegations are "groundless" and "distorted from the truth."

People-to-people exchanges are an important aspect of bilateral relations. In recent years, China and Singapore have stepped up people-to-people exchanges, such as organizing conferences which bring together overseas Chinese and arrange visits for Chinese Singaporeans to their ancestral villages. Those are laudable moves that can help deepen mutual understanding and trust. 

There are deep cultural bonds between China and Singapore, which are a natural advantage for the two countries to deepen bilateral relations. Unfortunately, some Western forces are making an issue of the cultural affinities to drive a wedge between the two nations, which will hurt the feelings of both people. 

Deepening exchanges between China and Singapore in various fields, including the economy, trade and people-to-people ties, is in the interests of Singaporeans and Chinese. China is Asia's largest economy and Singapore's top trading partner. Singaporeans, who are believed to be embracing pragmatism, hope to develop closer economic cooperation with China and maintain healthy bilateral relations. 

From China's perspective, although Singapore, as an ally of the US, has orchestrated a balance between China and the US and it's sometimes too heavily dependent on the US, China can understand Singapore's dilemma as a small country sandwiched between two big powers, and respect its choice. China has no intention of influencing Singaporeans' national identity. It will never do so, nor does it think it has the ability. 

Singapore, in fact, is one of the countries that have had the most influence on China in history. After seeing Singapore's economic achievements, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, known as the architect of China's reform and opening-up, said China needs to learn from Singapore. China has learned a lot from Singapore in addressing tough challenges in its reform and development. It still needs to do so in the future. 

There will be many opportunities for the two countries to deepen exchanges. Claims that China is taking advantage of people-to-people exchange activities to influence Chinese Singaporeans are actually clichés of the "China threat" theory. Amid intensifying China-US strategic competition, some Western forces may augment their efforts to sow discord in Singapore-China relations. The city-state should be wary of not playing into the hands of them. It's hoped Singapore sees through those attempts and has the confidence to manage cultural exchanges with China.

blog comments powered by Disqus