THE big country small country narrative comes up again. Is a small country always on the losing end?
A small country can have a great idea but the idea could be easily disregarded by bigger countries. Big countries, on the other hand, can have a stupid idea and everyone has to take their idea seriously (cos they lan lan/bo bian or scare of the repercussions). With that being said, a big country can also use bullying tactics on small country and no one would say a thing.
Neighbouring countries start chewing their popcorns.
Anyway, what did we do wrong? We are law abiding country, yea? Our position towards China and other countries remains the same. We want to be friends with countries that want to be friends with us.
As a small country, our position is this. We follow international law and adhere to agreements. Cannot suka-suka change this change that right? Say we give in to China, kowtow to them, take their lollipops and put the Terrex issue to bed by saying sorry. Will another country try their luck with us? Will our close friend come to our doorstep and insist we pay them more for imported water? This is why regulations and agreements are important to small countries and we must adhere to them.
So, what has changed?
It is China. They are THE rising power.
This rising power has become more assertive. How shall we cope with the NEW China?
We don’t have a crystal ball but one thing is for sure, China is testing us. They want to see if we will cave in to pressure. We have been put to the test many times. Take the territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS) as an example. Back in 1999, China wasn’t too pleased that Singapore (as host of 6th ASEAN Regional Forum) decided to raise the SCS disputes as part of the discussion topics. Bilateral visit to Singapore was postponed and China even got other ASEAN countries to put pressure on us.
What transpired? We went ahead with the discussion and ensured that the discussion was not a finger-pointing session. It was focused on managing territorial claims so tensions do not escalate and prevent conflicts. We also reaffirmed the “One China Policy”.
On relationship with Taiwan, it is not something new. We have been training there for ages and we could not simply break off this friendly agreement because China tell us so. Yes, this is sensitive but back then, we were unable to break the encirclement our “neighbours” wanted to squeeze us into. Training in Taiwan was important for our national security and that was a sign to display how we viewed national defense. Taiwan agreed to allow us to use their facilities and we are somewhat indebted to them. Loyalty is important to the Chinese right?
Singapore is old friends with China. We are also their largest foreign investor. Managed to find this on the web:
For the second consecutive year Singapore was China’s largest foreign investor with investments amounting to US$5.8 billion in over 700 projects last year. At the same time, Singapore is China’s largest investment destination in Asia, and one of the top investment destinations for Chinese companies investing abroad.
We are definitely not fucking around with a country that we have so much investments in. A strong and prosperous China is good for Singapore. We are loyal to old friends.
Countries are watching how Singapore take the next step. We will not be intimidated and will not give in to pressure. We seek peaceful diplomatic ways to close issues. In international relations, there is a saying that goes “There are no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”
I beg to differ. Singapore could be the permanent dependent that looks over your shoulder. Let us close the Terrex issue and go la-kopi together.
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Others reads on the relationship with China:
The Terrex incident: We shall not be movedddd….., we from Singapore, we shall not be moved: https://riseofthestrawberrynation.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/the-terrex-incident-we-shall-not-be-movedddd-we-from-singapore-we-shall-not-be-moved/
China-Singapore relations: United Front Tactics, Yesterday Once More: https://riseofthestrawberrynation.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/china-singapore-relations-united-front-tactics-yesterday-once-more/