Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ukraine crisis: What is China's stance?

The world watches as the Ukraine/Crimea drama continues to unfold. A small country's territorial integrity is at stake. But how come no one has asked China about its diplomatic position on the issue? And, have you noticed, Beijing has been keeping very quiet.

It is a zero-sum game. The more the US and Russia lock horns, the better China's room for manoeuvring in its own backyard. So this news item (TODAY, Mar 6) takes on added import:

TODAY also carried this item:

Wah, as written, that should be a Page One story, but it was tucked away as a narrow single column at the bottom of Page 28. Hmmm.

Anyway, there was a fuller story which was reported in ST:

Okay, as written in the ST story, it is no longer a Page Oner. But it still begs the question: Were Ms McFarland's original remarks more accurate or should we take her corrected remarks at face value? Once more, hmmm.

Anyway, US pivot or not, the region has to live with an increasingly more powerful China where military might (especially naval power projection) is concerned. But there was this recent ST item which I felt deserved more scrutiny:

 Ms Fu Ying is an expert on the South China Sea issue, having cut her teeth as a young diplomat at the series of Indonesian-hosted South China Sea Talks in the 1990s (I had participated as a Singaporean delegate at one of these meetings). I am sure her voice carries weight among Beijing's decision-makers. So, while her "offer" is not a new Chinese initiative, it comes at a time when many quarters in regional countries are seeking either (a) a binding Code of Conduct; or (b) third-party arbitration or adjudication to resolve the boundary issues. China is not in favour of either, at this point.

In this context. Ms Fu is saying "Let's deal!" albeit on China's terms but with benefits to (presumably) all claimants. The vexious boundary disputes can be left to another time. Of course, if China ends up effectively the predominant regional power many years down the road (or should we say down the sea lanes?), then Beijing might still have its cake and eat it too.


Okay, I'm done with the serious stuff. I am beginning to find the Pioneer Generation spin-offs a joke (note: I do respect the idea of a true Pioneer Generation of people born before 1946). If folks are not treating this label as joke, how come there's this article by no less than an academic?...

So "pioneer" is the new buzz word and you can stick it to anyone or anything! Let's now look for Singapore's pioneer fire station (Hill Street?), pioneer air strip (no, it's not Paya Lebar or even the one at Kallang), and so on and so forth.

And, in this jocular spirit, do try this quiz:

What was Singapore's pioneer public housing authority?
Who was Singapore's pioneer political chief executive?
... pioneer "MRT Man" (ie, the relatively junior cabinet minister who faced off a towering senior colleague to insist on a future bus/MRT network rather than an all-bus network)?

No, it is not the HDB, Mr Lee Kuan Yew or Dr Goh Keng Swee.

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