Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi was in Singapore for a two-day visit from Monday to Tuesday (Sep. 13 to 14).
During his stay here, he met with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, and called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Wang's visit came hot on the heels of Harris' visit
Wang's visit to Southeast Asia — he visited Vietnam and Cambodia before Singapore, and went to South Korea next — came just three weeks after United States Vice President Kamala Harris left Singapore .
Given the timing of Wang's Southeast Asia tour, it was touted by analysts as a move to counter U.S.' influence in the region.
Ultra-nationalistic Chinese state-controlled media Global Times (GT) said the visit "hedged the negative influence of U.S. senior officials' previous visits", despite saying in a previous article that Wang's visit was meant to "improve cooperation" with China's neighbours, "rather than counter the U.S. influence in the region".
Such speculations have prompted a Lianhe Zaobao reporter to ask at a Tuesday joint press conference if the visits by both Harris and Wang were part of "a diplomatic confrontation" between the two major powers.
Vivian: U.S. a benign presence in Southeast Asia, hopes both China and U.S. can work together
Reiterating Singapore's view that the U.S. is a "benign and constructive and positive presence" in the region for many decades and the country's importance as a trading partner, Vivian also said that "the biggest success story of the last 40 years had been China".
"The rise of China is inexorable, so it is the biggest story of our lifetime," Vivian said, adding that "the biggest question at this point in history" is how China's rise is affecting its relationship with the current superpower, the U.S.
Vivian further said that in spite of the "inevitable" competition between China and the U.S., Singapore hopes that both countries will still be able to be constructive in their relationship, and cooperate on "essential" issues, such as the pandemic and climate change.
In times of friction, Singapore hopes that confrontation could be "minimised" and that their problems would be resolved through Wang's "hard work", he said.
In addition, Vivian noted that should China engage in multilateral efforts, such as by joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a major trade deal that was originally meant to exclude China, it would lead to a greater integration of the global economy, which would bring about "bright prospects for the future".
Wang: U.S. suspicious of China's rise, hopes U.S. can be as cooperative as Singapore
Saying that he understands Singapore's stance, which his "old friend" had just expounded on, Wang said Singapore has taken a "rational, just and objective" view towards China's development, and is able to look for opportunities to cooperate with China amid the latter's growth.
However, he said there are still "some powers in the world" which still harbour reservations towards China's rise, even some "misunderstandings".
They also haven't sought to cooperate with China, and their attitude has affected their development of their relations, Wang said.
He added that the U.S. "might still be in such a process", and said that he hopes that the U.S. can be like other countries, such as Singapore, and "recognise that it's not just them with the right to develop themselves".
"It's not just Americans who can lead a prosperous life; the citizens of other countries have the right to do so too," he said.
"This world can't be built on a system which only allows a few countries to become rich, while other countries remain poor," he continued saying. "This is unfair, and doesn't align with basic human morality."
He further urged the U.S. to abandon its "zero-sum game" mentality, stop viewing the world from a "Cold War" lens, and "learn to co-exist peacefully with other countries" in a globalised world.
Online commenters agree with Wang
Wang's response was carried in full by Lianhe Zaobao . The video clocked more than 103,000 views in less than 24 hours, and attracted more than 390 comments we well.
Many Facebook commenters, writing in Chinese, said they were won over by Wang's remarks, which they described as "eloquent".
They also appeared to side with China more than the U.S., and agreed with what he said, and thought that the U.S. should treat China less as an adversary and more as a partner to cooperate with.
"American is a friend, China is a friend with foundations."
"I'm worried after listening to what they said, I pray that Singapore wouldn't be dragged (into the conflict between China and the U.S.)."
"The best example is to see how the U.S. has cracked down on Huawei. Asia, don't bow down to such domineering behaviour by the U.S., be brave and develop positive ties with China! Go Singapore, go China, go Asia!"
"China is the source of all goods in the world, the U.S. is the source of all trouble in the world."
"Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi says it the best. I especially like this phrase that he said, 'Everything thrives without harming one another, Tao and all ways of nature run together without contradiction.' From Zhong Yong, written by Li Ji (a Confucianism doctrine)."
Top image via Lianhe Zaobao