How do political battles work? Sometimes one must look a little closer at who is making the comments that you read about on the newspapers and ask why?
Curiosity prodded me to consider some of the comments being made by Chinese opinion leaders in the light of the Terrex impounding at Hong Kong.
Here’s a run through on who are making these comments and where they’re from:
1.) Major General Chen Chung-chi, Taiwanese defence Ministry spokesman
When quizzed by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on whether or not the tanks were of Chinese origin, Major General Chen denied that the war machines were made in Taiwan.
What did he say? “I can tell you that those armoured military carriers … do not belong to the Republic of China,” Chen said. But he refused to say who owned the carriers or why Taiwan had shipped them to Singapore.
The swift manner in it was addressed was practical. Taiwan and China never had a peace treaty signed and it is still debatable whether or not they’re still at war. and it would be a disaster if these armoured carriers belonged to them.
2.) Antony Wong Dong, President of the International Military Association in Macau
When asked about what these machines are, Antony identified them as AV-81s from Singapore. He claimed that they were Singapore’s most advanced military vehicle and the discovery could prompt a stern rebuke from Beijing.
What did he say? “Singapore will probably be in big trouble this time because Beijing could use this chance to give the city state a hard time in retaliation for Singapore’s stand on the South China Sea issue.”
Unrelated to the Terrex incident, consider his other comments when asked about a demonstration of Chinese air power over the Western Pacific: “It is a warning from Beijing to Japan: if you are coming to meddle in the South China Sea, then I’m going to flex my muscles at your doorstep.”
Or this one when China announced four new flight routes between China and Taiwan: “The move will make President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration embarrassed and give the opposition camp an excuse to oppose Beijing.”
3.) Zhang Baohui, political science professor/security analyst, Lingnan University
Zhang said the armoured carriers issue would be a “weather vane” for ties between China and Singapore.
Dr. Baohui Zhang received his undergraduate education in China and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Texas in Austin. Before joining the faculty of Lingnan, he taught for ten years in the United States. His research interests include Chinese politics, international relations of East Asia, and democratization.
The Lingnan University is the only public liberal arts university in Hong Kong and was selected as “Top 10 Asian Liberal Arts College” by Forbes.
What did he say? “If Beijing gives the green light to let the shipment go through, ties between China and Singapore will improve,” said Lingnan University political science professor Zhang Baohui, as quoted by SCMP. “If it doesn’t, it will become a complicated political issue.”
4.) Lee Chih-hong, research fellow at the Longus Institute for Development and Strategy in Singapore
Lee is a Singapore citizen who was born in State of Johor, Malaysia and obtained a B.A. National University of Singapore (1990), M.A. National Chengchi University, Taiwan (1998). He worked 8 years as Lianhe Zaobao overseas-based correspondent in Taipei, Hong Kong and Guangzhou and has interest in Taiwanese history, society, politics and culture.
The Longus Institute for Development and Strategy has no website, which is odd for a research body. It was setup only recently in 2015 and is located relatively near the Chinese Embassy.
What did he say? Lee’s very strong quote was picked up newspapers all around the world. It reads “There is no doubt that the Chinese government wants to embarrass Singapore, but Beijing also doesn’t want to change the overall situation of Sino-Singapore diplomatic relations, so they let Hong Kong customs expose and handle this issue.”
Also interesting was the ex-journalist’s observation that “In the past, such things never got reported, but it’s reported this time – it’s really puzzling.”
5.) Ni Lexiong, Shanghai-based military expert, once Shanghai Institute of Political Science and Law
Professor Ni Lexiong was reported to have spoken directly to “The Global Times”. In 2015, when the Chinese tabloid wanted quotes regarding the investigation of senior People’s Liberation Army officials investigated for disciplinary violations, they went to Ni.
What did he say? “There have been regular Singapore-Taiwan military exchanges for a long time” and no similar incidents have been reported before”.
“This time, it is difficult to exclude the possibility of strategic calculation,” Ni said. “It is a delicate moment in South East Asia, when the Obama administration is going out and the new administration is yet to take power. There is a gap of power in between.”
6.) Xu Guangyu, a member of the Chinese Military Disarmament Control Council and the former vice president of the People’s Liberation Army Defense Institute of China
Xu was the only quote amongst all by the SCMP to have played down the incident.
What did he say? “I personally do not think we should complicate this simple incident,” he suggested. “It should just be handled according to the relevant maritime law.”
7.) Arthur Ding, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University
Dr. Arthur Ding is the Director and Distinguished Research Fellow of the Institute of International Relations (IIR), National Chengchi University, NCCU, Taipei. He is also a member of the Chinese Council for Advanced Policy Studies, and board Member of the Mainland China Study Association, Taipei, Taiwan.
What did he say? Dr. Ding said Singapore might be in a somewhat “awkward” situation to conduct military exchanges with Taiwan now, at a time of strained relations between Beijing and Taipei. “Because the Democratic Progressive Party is seen as pro-independence, if Singaporean troops continue to conduct exercises here, it might give people an impression that Singapore is supporting the pro-independence government.”