Photo of Minister Teo Chee Hean from Straits Times

At the FutureChina Global Forum yesterday (July 13), Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean tried hard selling Singapore’s capabilities, hoping to get a role in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative:

“These include going beyond individual projects to form a network, beyond physical links to include digital and human networks; leveraging on international and institutional financial resources; and working inclusively with partners all along the Belt and Road. Singapore will work with China to help realise this potential, he said, highlighting three areas where they could work together to achieve it.”

DPM Teo Chee Hean claimed that Singapore can play an important in China’s project in four areas – maritime safety in the Malacca Straits, digital connectivity, financial funding and setting up of free trade zones.

However, the Singapore DPM’s point is moot. Maritime safety in the Malacca Straits are taken care of Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines. China has no short of money funding the OBOR project, and China certainly has more expertise in setting up free trade zones as compared to Singapore. Singapore has also no sharp edge in digital connectivity due to its limited IT talents.

As a result, China officials are evidently unexcited by Singapore’s proposals and there has been no response on letting Singapore partake in the OBOR project. There has been many single-monologue of “warming ties” from Singapore officials, most notably from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, which China did not respond.

Singapore-China diplomacy is currently at its record low due to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong allowing US navy to monitor China military movements in the South China Sea and also the Singapore PM’s repeated provoking on China from the South China Sea territorial dispute to environmental issues in Beijing.

PM Lee has been widely criticised by his father’s former subordinates like Professor Kishore Mahbubani who said the current PAP administration is squandering the hard work put in by Lee Kuan Yew’s team.