Sun, Nov 08, 2015 - Page 3 News List

MA-XI MEETING: Singapore natural choice for China-Taiwan talks


If the historic summit this weekend between the presidents of Taiwan and China is laden with symbolism, so is the location, the city-state of Singapore.

A nation made up largely of the descendants of 19th-century Chinese migrants, Singapore has maintained close ties with both China and Taiwan, and is a model of what China aspires to be: educated, tolerant, prudent and well-to-do.

Perhaps most importantly for Beijing, Singapore has also created a nation docile enough not to question a semi-authoritarian government too stridently.

More than 20 years ago, Taiwan and China held their first talks in Singapore.

“The decision to hold talks in Singapore again is significant in itself,” said Liu Hong (劉宏), chair of Nanyang Technological University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “It is not only an international hub but politically neutral, making it good ground for both mainland China and Taiwan.”

Singapore’s ties to both sides go back decades. Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), the first prime minister and the architect of modern Singapore, was an interlocutor between China and the West, often fiercely defending Confucian values of discipline and authoritarianism while berating the West for being critical of the lack of free speech. Lee, who died in March, was one of the last foreign dignitaries to meet with the ailing Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) in the 1970s.

Lee had no tolerance for political dissent, something Beijing has long understood. Opposition figures in Singapore were either defeated in elections or taken to court on defamation charges until they were bankrupt. Singapore still allows no street protests.

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