Friday, 22 September 2017

Do Lee and Xi see eye-to-eye?

Singaporean leader's meeting with Chinese counterpart aimed to normalize ties and align interests but its not clear the impromptu visit accomplished either


Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s just concluded three-day official visit to China came amid recent uneasy ties on strategic and sovereign issues. It’s not immediately clear that Lee’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, despite the diplomatic niceties and assurances, necessarily put relations back on a cordial track.

Lee’s high-profile meetings with Xi, Premier Li Keqiang and other top officials signaled a renewed effort to reaffirm the two sides’ extensive and substantive relations after hitting a new nadir last year. The premier’s visit came ahead of preparations for China’s pivotal 19th Party Congress, where new leaders and policy directions will be decided.

Lee described his meetings as “warm” and that bilateral relations were “more than stable.” He said Chinese leaders were “keen on improving relations” and saw a “basic alignment” of the two sides’ interests and objectives. He also said Singapore aims to leverage the two countries’ “cultural affinity.”

Lee took the unexpected step of meeting anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan, who does not regularly host foreign leaders. Wang has overseen Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign, which has included restrictions on capital flows overseas. It’s unclear what role, if any, Singapore has played in Beijing’s clampdown on illicit cash outflows.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times specialising on current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.