The relations between China and Singapore were once exampled as good bilateral relations in the region: stable and promising. Albeit gradually increasing competition, bilateral economic cooperation remains to be a stabilizer. However, the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and even more complicated Sino-US relations add up more uncertainties to bilateral relations. This paper aims to examine the fragility of bilateral relations against the overall backgrounds of the dynamic regional balance of power while analyzing the economic cooperation as the stabilizer and reviewing political mutual trust between China and Singapore.Design/methodology/approachThis paper will apply historical and documentary review and qualitative analysis.FindingsLed by its pragmatic foreign policy, Singapore hedges against China, even it seeks to deeply engaging China in all dimensions of bilateral ties, including economic, cultural and political. The grand strategy of the BRI signals the era of “keeping low profile”, leaving us far away. It will inevitably change the regional landscape geo-strategically. The USA clearly defines China as a strategic competitor, which represent Sino-US relations will not go back to the past. The traditional counterbalance strategy applied by Singapore works more difficultly when China intends to be stronger politically in the region. Economically and politically, there are no reasons for Singapore not to show positive support for the BRI. However, the BRI essentially provides a warning message that Singapore should explore a more practical and realistic strategy for not being constrained by China's geo-economic strategy. Singapore's picking side and its increasing military budget, China's assertiveness and the changing Sino-US relations imply the looming fragilities to bilateral relations.Originality/valueThe relations between China and Singapore were once exampled as good bilateral relations in the region: stable and promising. However, China and Singapore relations also ran into bumps from time to time over the years. We usually believe it is because of the peculiarity of Singapore's China policy. However, we should not neglect the dynamic regional balance of power and the changing Sino-US relations after the BRI was proposed. To fill this research gap, this paper will review the factors of stabilizers and the factors that bring fragility to bilateral relations between China and Singapore. The paper also argues that it is time for Beijing to make reflections on whether Beijing proposed BRI too early and whether Beijing over addressed on the magnificence and ambitions of the BRI.
Asian Education and Development Studies – Emerald Publishing
Published: Dec 23, 2020
Keywords: BRI; China and Singapore relations; China–US relations; Hedging; Regional order