Singapore-China ties: Understanding, mutual respect needed

The recent diplomatic dispute between China's Global Times newspaper and Singapore's ambassador to China is disconcerting ("Start of China's coercive diplomacy towards Singapore"; Oct 6).

We are entering a new geopolitical system that calls for new ways of doing things and thinking.

Singapore's past colonial legacy has entrenched us in our beliefs in the rule of law, democratic process and meritocracy. We see things in neat black and white.

In the new reality, things are fuzzier.

From China's perspective, it is the epicentre of civilisation. Every interaction is based on face and power.

It is difficult for China to understand why Singapore is not like it, even as we share a common diaspora.

How could we say "no" to it when we have benefited from its vast markets? Why don't we give it face and acknowledge its pre-eminence?

Well, we have been separated by the vast seas and China's years of self-imposed seclusion from the world.

We have evolved differently. We have harnessed different values and political and socio-cultural orientations shaped by unique regional circumstances.

We are a sovereign nation-state.

Perhaps, it is a steep learning curve for both countries on how to interact with each other. It calls for understanding and mutual respect to bring forth co-prosperity for both peoples to thrive.

Lee Teck Chuan