04 November 2015
In 1978, Singapore’s then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew secured a historic meeting with Mr Deng Xiaoping, who was about to become China’s paramount leader. This weekend, Mr Lee’s son will make history in his own right – uniting the leaders of China and Taiwan, even if just for a day.
China’s President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou will talk in Singapore on Saturday (Nov 7), the first such meeting since a civil war seven decades ago. Just last year, Mr Xi rebuffed Mr Ma’s invitation to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. While China views Taiwan as a renegade province, the mainland is also the island’s biggest trading partner.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of the late Mr Lee, is replicating his father’s role as a political conduit for some of Asia’s biggest powers. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who led the country for 31 years, was known for his pragmatism as the city-state opened up its economy and financial sector to countries from China to the US, and as someone whose advice was sought by other leaders.
“Lee Kuan Yew was a very influential political leader and he had very good ties with leaders in Taiwan and leaders in Beijing,” said Mr Li Mingjiang, an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore. “So that made a difference. In a way he could serve as a bridge between Beijing and Taipei and he could play some sort of more active role”.
… “LKY laid the foundation to play host to these kind of meetings,” said Mr Oh Ei Sun, a former political secretary to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. “The present administration of Singapore is carrying that tradition.”
GPO / IDSS / Online
Last updated on 13/11/2015