By Rowan Callick
The seizure of the nine Singaporean troop carriers by Hong Kong Customs illustrates how hard it remains for Beijing, despite its economic heft, to achieve its regional strategic goals, such as isolating Taiwan.
That Singapore still participates in exercises there is in an illustration of the complexity and depth of such links in the Asia-Pacific region. Something China struggles to replicate — an inhibiting factor for the potential effectiveness of its People’s Liberation Army.
China has had some luck with The Philippines, which has swung its way under Rodrigo Duterte, but that has had little to do with its own efforts. It becomes tetchy with one neighbour after another. In the last few days Mongolia — scrapping talks because the Dalai Lama visited the country of Tibetan Buddhists.
Australia has a particular interest in seeing Singapore remains a comparatively free agent. In May Canberra signed a strategic partnership agreement with the city state, which Malcolm Turnbull described as a “massive upgrading” of the relationship. We are allies under the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and have been exercising with Singapore since its birth.
Singapore’s relationship with China is complex. Many Chinese leaders have admired Singapore and view it as a model for their own development. At the same time, its strongly independent strategic inclination — with military links with the US almost as close as that of allies — makes it prone to criticism from Beijing. A city state surrounded by much larger nations is bound to take its security especially seriously.
The seizure also raises questions about Hong Kong’s security as a free port. Should cargoes that might incur Beijing’s displeasure be shipped elsewhere? Such ripples are bound to spread, unless Hong Kong curtails the issue by returning the cargo swiftly.
Tags: armoured troop carriers, Australia, Brunei, China, Five Power Defence Arrangements, Global Times, Hong Kong, mainland China, Malaysia, Malcolm Turnbull, Military cargo, People's Daily, People’s Liberation Army, Philippines, Singapore, Singapore's hypocrisy, Singapore's military relations, Singaporean infantry training, South China Sea, Taiwan, U. S., Vietnam