Global Times continues drumbeat of criticism against Singapore

Global Times continues drumbeat of criticism against Singapore
Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times published a series of reports critical of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Japan this week, which sparked criticisms of Singapore among Chinese netizens. Photo: Reuters
Reports on PM Lee’s Japan visit cause netizens to lash out
Published: 11:25 PM, September 30, 2016

SINGAPORE — Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times has published a series of reports critical of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Japan this week, which sparked criticisms of Singapore among Chinese netizens.

In its first report on Thursday morning (Sept 29), the newspaper claimed that Singapore “again stirred up” the South China Sea issue. Global Times claimed that Mr Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had discussed and “reached consensus and agreed to cooperate” on several issues, including the South China Sea, during their summit meeting on Wednesday. Singapore, Mr Lee had reiterated after his talks with Mr Abe, does not take sides in the South China Sea dispute.

The Chinese newspaper, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, also asked readers if they objected to Singapore’s “viewpoint”. By Friday morning, more than 98 per cent of 18,600 respondents who responded to the online poll clicked “yes”. Scores of netizens also posted scathing remarks against Singapore, with some comments drawing thousands of “likes”.

On Thursday evening, the Global Times published another report saying that a “Singapore which has already taken sides is again blowing up the South China Sea issue on the international stage”, alleging that Mr Lee was giving a speech in Tokyo where he called on China to abide by an international tribunal ruling on the South China Sea. The second report was not accessible on the newspaper’s website hours later, though several other Chinese news websites had republished the article.

The Global Times cited Kyodo News as its source for both reports. But in a third report Friday morning, the Chinese newspaper noted that contrary to earlier reports, transcripts of Mr Lee’s remarks released by his office and the Singapore media showed that he did not call for China to abide by the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The newspaper nevertheless continued its criticism of Singapore by quoting unnamed experts to say that the Republic’s strategy of siding with the United States and Japan on security and political issues, while trying to “extract economic benefits from China”, is doomed to failure.

Prime Minister Lee paid an official visit to Tokyo from Monday to Thursday in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan.

On Thursday, in a speech at a special session of the Nikkei International Conference on the future of Asia, he said that Singapore wants to see China succeed, because a stable and prosperous China “conscious” of its weight and responsibilities would greatly benefit Asia-Pacific and the world.

“At the same time, China should be mindful of the natural unease and apprehension that its rapid rise elicits in its neighbours and other powers,” Mr Lee added. “It should act in such a way as to demonstrate that it is committed to building win-win relationships with other countries, and that while it seeks to revise existing frameworks and rules, it is not about to overturn the established international order which it has itself benefited from.”

Global Times’ series of reports this week drew scores of critical comments from netizens who lashed out at Singapore.

“Should teach Singapore a lesson. If the tiger does not roar, Singapore will think we are a sick cat,” wrote a netizen from Hunan on the newspaper’s website Friday morning.

Another netizen called Shaomao0012 from Hubei province wrote on the same site: “What is working hand in glove? This is! The leaders of the two countries (Singapore and Japan) are playing the role of No 2 and No 3 (behind the US) in containing China. This will not end well for them.

“What is self-deception? This is! And Singapore says it did not act like a clown at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit? Are they going to say that media reports are wrong again?”

The Global Times reports came on the back of a public exchange of words between the tabloid and Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The newspaper claimed that the Republic had tried to push for a stronger statement on the international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea at the NAM summit last week in Venezuela.

This sparked a pushback from Singapore’s ambassador to China Stanley Loh, who said the claim was fabricated, false and unfounded. But the Global Times maintained its sources were credible, and said Mr Loh should urge Singapore to “conduct self-reflection” instead. In response, Mr Loh stated that the crux of the matter is that Global Times’ Sept 21 report did not accurately reflect the proceedings at the recent NAM Summit, which can be verified by the public record of the meeting.