Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Ties with US, China not zero-sum game: Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong

Pretty wise words from Singapore’s leaders at this year’s APEC forum hosted in Singapore. There really isn’t a need to take sides, though it might be pure lip service to prevent offending either power. We shall see.

Quotable Quotes“MM Lee noted that the US had left East Asia ‘fallow’ over the last eight years, preoccupied with its own wars and not concluding free trade agreements with any country except Singapore…”

Ties with US, China not zero-sum game: PM Lee
By Sue-Ann Chia
The Straits Times
Source – Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov 14, 2009

DESPITE rivalry between China and the United States, relating with the two is not a zero-sum game and Singapore does not want to have to choose one over the other.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the point yesterday in an interview with the BBC as host of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.

‘All countries want to be friends with China, and all countries would also like simultaneously to be friends with America. We don’t want to have to choose sides,’ he said, in reply to a question on the developing rivalry between the two giants.

Asked how Singapore decides on its friends, he said: ‘It’s a matter of economics, but beyond economics, also security and political stability.’

Singapore, he said, hoped for a region where competition among countries is peaceful and constructive, rather than tumultuous and leading to wider instability.

Noting that China has been active in South-east Asia ‘cultivating countries and making friends’, he said the region also wants good relations with China and to benefit from China’s growing market.

As for the US, while it has ‘interests and friends all over Asia’, it also has ‘many pressing preoccupations elsewhere’, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Because of these, the ’tilling of the ground’ and cultivation of relationships with South-east Asia has not been given as much attention ‘as we would have preferred’, he said.

Lately however, under President Barack Obama, the US appears to be focusing again on Asia, he said, adding: ‘I think that is what Hillary Clinton meant when she said that they are now back.’

Mrs Clinton made the remark during her visit to Bangkok in July, her second trip to Asia as US Secretary of State.

The topic of China-US rivalry also cropped up when Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew addressed the Apec CEO Summit yesterday.

Asked to comment on whether the US was a declining power in Asia, MM Lee noted that the US had left East Asia ‘fallow’ over the last eight years, preoccupied with its own wars and not concluding free trade agreements with any country except Singapore.

He sounded a warning against US protectionism, saying that if its anti-trade and anti-outsourcing stance continues, its economic interests in the Pacific region would decline.

‘The Chinese are hungry; they will go anywhere with economic potential. No worries about expat allowances and American schools. In eight years, assuming President Obama gets another term, and assuming that Congress does not get out of its protectionist mode, then I see huge problems ahead for America’s economic standing,’ he said.

Additional reporting by Rachel Chang

Filed under: APEC Forum 2009, International Relations, Singapore, Straits Times

Chinese want better lives, not votes: Singapore’s MM Lee Kuan Yew

This reads to be quite the truth, from interactions with my mainland friends, at least the ones I know who are based in Melbourne. What was really pertinent though about this article, and really set me thinking, was this bit –

Deng had congratulated Mr Lee for building up Singapore into a garden city. Recalled Mr Lee: ‘So I said, ‘Whatever we can do, you will do better. We are the descendants of the landless peasants of South China, you have the literati, you have the top brains, you have the poets, the artists.’ He did not answer me, he just looked at me and went back to his food.’

There is truth in what Singapore’s MM said. Very very true.

Chinese want better lives, not votes: MM
They are more keen on better living standards than a democratic system
By Jeremy Au Yong
Source – Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 14 November 2009

CHINA may not have a democratic system but its people are currently more interested in obtaining higher standards of living than they are in votes and freedom of speech.

That was the point made by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew yesterday during an exchange with Time International editor Michael Elliott.

The two were speaking during a dialogue at the Apec CEO Summit. Mr Lee was the guest speaker and Mr Elliott was the moderator of the session.

Mr Lee had been outlining what he saw as the benefits of the Chinese leadership system when Mr Elliot remarked: ‘It’s not a democratic system.’

‘The Chinese people are not interested,’ was the Minister Mentor’s quick retort. He explained that as the Chinese were trying to catch up with the world, their primary concern was with achieving the standard of living they saw in the more developed Asian economies.

‘You got your pro-democracy activists, but do the Chinese people worry about their vote and freedom of speech? They want the lives that they see in Hong Kong, in Singapore and before this downturn, in Taiwan,’ he said.

Mr Lee had every confidence China would achieve what it set out to do. After all, it had the cream of the Chinese people.

He recounted a conversation he had with Deng Xiaoping in 1978 when the Chinese leader visited Singapore.

Deng had congratulated Mr Lee for building up Singapore into a garden city. Recalled Mr Lee: ‘So I said, ‘Whatever we can do, you will do better. We are the descendants of the landless peasants of South China, you have the literati, you have the top brains, you have the poets, the artists.’ He did not answer me, he just looked at me and went back to his food.’

Mr Lee was similarly impressed by how forward-looking China’s leadership is. Asked if he agreed with a statement by US National Economic Council director Larry Summers that China was planning 20 years ahead, Mr Lee replied: ‘I would say more than 20 years. Their calculation is for the next generation.’

He pointed out that China’s next generation of leaders was already in place.

‘It’s not a random choice depending on the whims of the electorate. It’s careful scrutiny by what they call the Central Organisation for Discipline. It’s an impressive system,’ he said.

Through that system, Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping has already emerged as likely successor to President Hu Jintao, and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang as likely successor to Premier Wen Jiabao.

During the dialogue – themed Rebuilding The Global Economy: Crisis And Opportunity – Mr Lee also shared his thoughts on America’s role in Asia, his views on North Korea and Vietnam, and even the prospects for the US dollar.

But yesterday’s forum was not all serious. One of the lighter moments came at the end, when MM Lee was asked by Mr Elliott for five things the US could learn from China. This topic is the cover story of the current edition of Time magazine.

Mr Lee said to much laughter: ‘I haven’t read it yet, I saw it on my desk. You tell me what your five things are, and I will tell you whether I agree with them.’

Mr Elliott named but one, respect for the elderly, and used it to wrap up proceedings by thanking MM Lee.

jeremyau@sph.com.sg

Filed under: APEC Forum 2009, Politics, Singapore, Straits Times

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