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Between Rising Powers

China, Singapore and India

Asad-ul Iqbal Latif

Publication Year: 2007

Geography has moulded Singapore’s self-definition, much as it has shaped the contours of the rest of Southeast Asia, a region that lies south of China and east of India. Placed within overlapping Sinic and Indic zones, Singapore's entrepôt role has served both. Today, as China and India emerge simultaneously as rising powers, a port city is going beyond its trading role to engage them in political and security terms. This book combines diplomatic history and international relations theory to show how Singapore is facilitating China's and India's engagement of Southeast Asia.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The rise of China and India has become an issue of global significance as we enter the 21st century. Concerns about Malthusian dilemmas, economic stagnation and weak governance of these countries clearly seem to have given way to debates on what the future holds...

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pp. xi-xii

Singapore is located at the southern end of the Straits of Malacca, the shortest sea route between China and India. Geography has moulded Singapore’s selfdefinition much as it has shaped the contours of the rest of Southeast...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book is the outcome of a research project at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), where I work as a Visiting Research Fellow. I am indebted to Mr K. Kesavapany, the Director of ISEAS, and Dr Chin Kin Wah, the Deputy...

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About the Author

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pp. xv

Asad-ul Iqbal Latif is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His areas of research include Singapore’s political and strategic relations with...

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I. Introduction: Soundings from History

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pp. 1-25

An extraordinary display of discord erupted between China and Singapore in July 2004, when Lee Hsien Loong paid a private visit to Taiwan shortly before becoming the city-state’s Prime Minister. Beijing responded with almost visceral asperity to the visit, saying that it...

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II. Engaging the Powers

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pp. 26-46

Hedley Bull’s The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics is premised on the idea that states form a society without government. In citing that apparent paradox, Bull upholds the position of Hugo Grotius on international reality against the traditions of both Thomas Hobbes...

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III. Tentative Encounters: China, India and Indochina

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pp. 47-82

Lee Kuan Yew’s choice of democratic India over communist China in the 1950s underscored the political logic of Singapore’s relations with Beijing, which were far less warm than its ties with New Delhi on Singapore’s independence in 1965. Other factors supporting the Singapore...

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IV. Engaging China: Interlocution

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pp. 83-101

China’s reforms straddled the global transition from the Cold War. China’s future had hung in the balance in the late 1970s after the excesses of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Deng Xiaoping rose to power, determined...

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V. From Tiananmen Square to Hong Kong

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pp. 102-126

Tiananmen Square is named ground. The Square is the figurative centre of China’s literal centre; it is what a journalist calls “China’s state cathedral”.1 Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace — the main gate leading from the centre of power to the rest of China and thence the world...

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VI. Asian Values

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pp. 127-167

Singapore’s intensely political engagement of China, apparent in the previous chapters, went into higher gear during the Asian values debate of the late 1980s and the 1990s. Singapore’s international advocacy of Asian cultural exceptionalism, reflecting a conservative approach to democracy...

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VII. Suzhou Industrial Park

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pp. 168-179

The Asian values debate, cut off abruptly by the Asian crisis, revealed the international limits of the discursive framework for the evolution of Sino-Singapore ties, but it did not have a bearing on those relations themselves. By...

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VIII. Taiwan

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pp. 180-191

Ironically for the two sides of the Taiwan Strait that have one of the most hostile relations in the world, Singapore’s ties with China were foreshadowed by its relations with Taiwan soon after the city-state became independent. Three sets of factors underscored the similarity: economics...

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pp. 192-211

Singapore’s relations with China reflect its acute awareness of sensitivities in ASEAN over its being the only Chinese-majority state outside China; and its need to strengthen its hand in its dealings with Beijing by placing its China initiatives within a larger regional framework. ASEAN...

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X. America

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pp. 212-233

The Southeast Asian dimension of Singapore’s relations with China cannot be detached from the Republic’s expectations of the U.S. role in East Asia as a whole. The evolution of the U.S.-Singapore relationship provides a context...

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XI. Engaging India

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pp. 234-284

Singapore’s attempt to engage India predates its engagement of China, but the divergence between the positions of Singapore and New Delhi on Cold Wargenerated issues, primarily the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia...

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XII. Conclusion

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pp. 285-290

Singapore is an “exceptional state” because its vulnerability — stemming from its miniscule size, its predominantly ethnic-Chinese population which traditionally has engaged in the economic...


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pp. 291-314


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pp. 315-333

E-ISBN-13: 9789812305718
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812304148

Page Count: 333
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Singapore -- Foreign relations -- China
  • China -- Foreign relations -- Singapore
  • Singapore -- Foreign relations -- India.
  • India -- Foreign relations -- Singapore.
  • China -- Foreign relations -- Southeast Asia.
  • Southeast Asia -- Foreign relations -- China.
  • India -- Foreign relations -- Southeast Asia.
  • Southeast Asia -- Foreign relations -- India.
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