People in and out of Singapore were quite intrigued recently by the no-show display of both Chinese leaders President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang when they by-passed Singapore in their visits to South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam before attending summit meetings in the region.Since Indonesia and Malaysia are so close to Singapore (一水之隔), one would expect that it was a matter of utmost courtesy for the two top Chinese leaders to include Singapore in their itinerary unless it was intended as some kind of a snub for whatever reason. To add to the conundrum, neither the Chinese leaders nor the thoughtful Singapore Government thought it necessary to enlighten the people , both in and out of Singapore. So it was allowed to continue to be enigmatic and Singaporeans cannot be faulted if they were found to indulge themselves in trying to find a plausible and credible reason for the apparent display of discourtesy by the two top Chinese leaders.
It will not be inappropriate to recall that our comical PM Lee Hsien Loong had in his inimitable way insulted the Chinese by his brilliant diplomatic display during his visit to the United States of America at a dinner given in his honour by the American business community in April this year. He told the august American audience that in Shanghai when one turned on the tap one could get pork soup, a sarcastic allusion to the massive pig carcasses found floating in a river in China. Next he said sarcastically that one could get free smoke when one opened the window in China, an allusion to the severe air pollution in China. He thought it was funny but the Chinese were not amused and could only consider it a sick joke aimed at humiliating them, considering the standing of the American audience. It could just be possible that the Chinese leaders have not forgotten nor forgiven PM Lee for his insult and the skipping of Singapore from their itinerary is just a way of showing their disgust.
It may or may not be a valid assumption. Some political analysts were reported by the Lianhe Zaobao today (21 Oct) to say that the skipping of Singapore from their itinerary by the two Chinese leaders did not mean that the position of Singapore could not be compared with other countries in the eyes of the Chinese. They cited the visit in October of the Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli to Singapore as one reason for the two Chinese leaders to skip Singapore as it was not considered consistent with diplomatic practice for more than one high-level leader to visit the same country within a short period. Frequent mutual visits of high-level Singapore and Chinese leaders were said to be another possible reason. So was the visit in August to China by PM Lee who met President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang . Until we get a clarification from the two Chinese leaders which may never come Singaporeans are left with no viable alternative but to determine from what is known about PM Lee's insult and the theory advanced by the political analysts. PM Lee would not be able to know if his insult is still the determining factor in the mind of the two top Chinese leaders.