China Frictions May See Singapore Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions – 19 May 2017

  • China’s plan for a maritime “Silk Road” to Europe is helping channel funds to Southeast Asia for roads, railways and ports. But amid the deals bonanza, one country risks missing out.
  • Despite strong historical and cultural ties to China, the tiny state of Singapore has found itself in Beijing’s crosshairs, in part for its stance over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As other Southeast Asian leaders lined up to meet President Xi Jinping at a summit in Beijing this week for his Belt-and-Road Initiative, Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
  • China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan because unlike other countries that announced their leaders would attend without requiring a formal invitation, Singapore sought an invite, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information.
  • Wong signed a memorandum with China to “enable the two sides to enjoy better bilateral relations, more substantive economic ties and closer people-to-people exchanges.” He said Singapore could join Hong Kong and London in facilitating lending to projects aimed at improving connectivity along the trade routes. The deal shies in comparison with those secured by its Asean neighbours.
  • Still, Zhai Kun, deputy president of the China Association of Southeast Asian Studies, said ties between Singapore and China should eventually recover. “Singapore has showed some goodwill gestures that the country could play an important financial role in the initiative, and the two nations have a tradition to do business,” he said.

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