Controversy about Sino-Singapore relations is resurfacing. Veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan reportedly warned that China "wants you to think in such a way that you will, of your own volition, do what it wants without being told." China's Ambassador to Singapore Hong Xiaoyong rejected such assertions, and assured all that China has "no intention" of influencing the "national identity" of Singaporeans.
This recent exchange might bring to mind the rough patch in Sino-Singapore relations from 2016 to last year, sparked by the South China Sea dispute. It is wrong to bash China and right to be concerned about potential turbulence in bilateral relations. But this should not bury Ambassador Kausikan's underlying point. It is necessary to understand how powerful states exercise influence in today's world.