Quotes from a speech by Singapore’s Prime Minister have infuriated China, or at least the editorial writers at the China state-friendly Global Times.
The Singapore PM pointed out that a tactical victory in the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute could damage the China brand elsewhere.
The key quote at the center of the disagreement between the Global Times and Singapore is taken from a speech Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong given in Japan (from the South China Morning Post):
“What you [China] gain on the Senkakus [Diaoyu Islands] or the South China Sea… you lose in terms of your broader reputation and standing in the world, you have to make that calculation very carefully.”
There is an entire debate about how the quotes were reported and what their original source was, which the SCMP article explains.
Nonetheless, the anger is instructive. It shows how sensitive China is about its claim and how sensitive Singapore is about being seen as partisan in the issue.
Singapore is considered something of a leading light for Asian’s political evolution. In fact, around the time of China’s leadership transition, there was discussion in China of Singapore being a possible model for the kind of political structure China could ultimately adopt.