S’pore businesses quizzed by Chinese counterparts over stand on South China Sea


SINGAPORE — Following the back-and-forth between Singapore and Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times over the South China Sea issue, some Singapore businessmen with interests in China are being questioned by their Chinese counterparts, on where they stand on the matter.

Singapore companies TODAY spoke to are concerned that this, along with the increasingly shrill comments by Chinese netizens in response to the newspaper’s provocative articles, would eventually affect their businesses.

Restaurant chain Tung Lok Group has operations in Beijing and Shanghai. Its executive chairman Andrew Tjioe noted the nationalistic fervour in a country “where everything seems to be about politics”. “I’m hoping, though, that consumers in China are mature enough to know how to separate politics and business,” he said.

Agreeing, Mr Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer of Singapore Business Federation, added: “If this drags on, and there’s widespread anger or hostility towards Singapore products, we’ll be concerned. The Chinese are very nationalistic. I think it’s important that Singapore’s side of the story gets heard in China as the Global Times is not balanced. We hope that the Chinese citizens get a balanced view of the situation.”

Last Tuesday (Oct 4), Members of Parliament (MPs) were briefed on the situation by the Cabinet. MPs told TODAY that concerns of businesses were reflected at the briefing and clarifications were also sought on the actual situation, beyond the rhetoric in the Chinese press.

On Saturday, the topic was also raised at an annual gathering between MPs and grassroots leaders, with Chinese clan associations in attendance.

Mr Koh Chin Yee, chief executive officer of Singapore-based think-tank Longus Research Institute, which does work on China and Asia geopolitics, had previously worked in China for nine years and has ties with the Singapore business community there.

He said: “Such talk among netizens has translated to real life debate… and has caused disturbances to businessmen operating in China. Singapore businessmen in China have told me that they get questioned about their stand on the South China Sea issue, by their counterparts in China.”