In remarks made by Singapore’s K Shanmugam on the conclusion of his back-to-back introductory visits as foreign minister to the United States and China, he noted that comments he made on the US-China relationship during his visit to Washington were warmly welcomed in Beijing.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Singapore Conference in Washington, Shanmugam had offered the United States a warning on anti-China rhetoric. “Americans should not underestimate the extent to which such rhetoric can spark reactions that create a new and unintended reality in the region,” he said.
“It is quite untenable to speak in terms of the ‘containment’ of China… (China) is determined to progress in all fields and take its rightful place in the community of nations,” added Shanmugam.
This was a reiteration of an earlier point Shanmugam made during an earlier visit to the Washington Post, “Containment does not work, will not work… Once you get into Cold War rhetoric, then you get everyone else into a Cold War framework, and it takes on a logic of its own.”
Back home in Singapore, Shanmugam said he was “struck by how carefully [Chinese officials] had read my speech because every single one of them spoke about it some detail”, and that he thought “the Chinese leaders appreciated that frankness coming from Singapore which is both a good friend of US and China.”
Shanmugam’s carefully-worded stance comes three years after Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew earned the wrath of Chinese netizens for suggesting that Asia needed the United States “to strike a balance” in the Pacific given the unstoppable rise of China. The response of the Chinese foreign ministry was fairly muted in that incident, however.
While some of Singapore’s southeast Asian neighbours have echoed its call to the two giants to not make them choose sides, others, such as the Philippines have recently allowed the US to build a greater military presence, alarmed by China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.