China wants to influence Singapore, and we should be happy about it.
Never mind if you believe / don’t believe the US-based Jamestown Foundation report on China’s influence ops in Singapore, the fact that we are perceived as the chosen one, is something we should be proud of.
I’ve not gone mad. I simply believe that only a capable, influential country that consistently remain useful to the world brings value to the table, and as a result, be recognised for its worth and importance.
Think about an old stored value card of a business that has decided to switch to cardless e-payment. The stored value card, with zero value, is no longer useful to whoever keeps it. The most likely fate of this card is to be junked.
Singapore is small with no natural resources and hinterland. Nobody owes us a living. If we don’t stay useful and relevant, we will be cast aside like the old stored value card.
So over the years, Singapore strives to be that useful friend that adds value to our partners, that delivers what we promise we can achieve together, and that stands firm by our clear, international rules-based principles – we don’t flip-flop like turning on/off switches.
So how is Singapore valuable to China? We showed the world that the rise of China can benefit others. We showed the world that China can settle disputes in South China Sea peacefully when we were the ASEAN chair last year. We showed the world that China can contribute to greater global trade efficiency when we collaborated on the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative which has progressed steadily so far. Together, we tasted success and achieved many things over the years, and Singapore has proven to be a worthy investment. That is why Singapore is a valuable friend to keep close by.
It would be foolish to go away thinking that only the Chinese do such things. Though in the face of China’s advances, majority-Chinese Singapore is more vulnerable than others. But at the end of the day, whether you are a Chinese or not is secondary. More critically, is whether you sympathise or have interests that are aligned with theirs, and whether you have ready access to the resources and spheres of influence that China regards highly.
Countries work together because of common interests. Many big countries with resources and interest in the region can afford to do what the Chinese are doing. But as long as Singapore continues to do the right thing, our people stay united and resilient in the face of external pressure, and we don’t lose sight of the challenges ahead, once in a while we can afford to feel a little flattered that a tiny red dot can become a worthy target of a giant’s influence ops.