Many watching to see what a ‘strong China’ means: PM Lee

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Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the Economic Club of Washington during his US working visit. (Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb)

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WASHINGTON: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of his leadership position is a signal that this is the start of a new phase for China, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Oct 25).

Mr Lee, speaking at a dialogue session at the Council on Foreign Relations during his official working visit to the US, said: “They mentioned a new era; Mao’s era, Deng’s era and now Xi’s era – which he envisages extending to 2050 and taking China to 100 years after the revolution.”

The recently concluded 19th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) saw Mr Xi unveil China’s new leaders, but no clear successor. The president’s thoughts were also inscribed in the constitution.

Responding to questions about how Mr Xi’s own consolidation of power might see him exercise China’s power going forward, Mr Lee said: “If you look for difference in emphasis, it’s what the Chinese themselves say.

“With Mao, China stands up. With Deng, they have gotten wealthy and now with Xi, they are strong. What does ‘strong’ mean?”

Mr Lee said this is something everybody will be watching carefully.

Asked what he thought a “strong China” would mean, Mr Lee said Mr Xi outlined this during his long opening speech at the party congress, starting with how the CCP must be fully in charge, sustain economic growth, environmental considerations and the welfare of the people. He also mentioned a strong armed forces.

“(These are) all the ingredients that any normal great power would have to pay attention to. What we don’t know is the balance, the tone and the wisdom with which these elements will unfold and we have to wait and see,” said Mr Lee.

He pointed out that the generation that has grown up through the Cultural Revolution has known hardship, turmoil and greatly treasures peace and stability.

“The next generation which has grown up during the period of reform and opening up and have only seen continuing progress, have not known turbulence, will they feel now ‘I am strong, let me show the world what I can do?’”

Mr Lee said that is a big question.

“If you ask the present generation, they will swear to you that the next generation will make their calculations and know that peace is important. I hope so,” he added.

Mr Lee has been emphasising during his trip the importance of the US-China relationship, describing it as “the most important bilateral relationship in the world”.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington DC on Monday, Mr Lee said whether the US still believes that it has the most to gain from an interdependent world, open exchanges and multilateral rules and how US-China relations develop will determine not just prosperity, but war and peace, not just in Asia, but the world.

“China has been the single most important driver of Asia’s prosperity and integration. While its growth rate has slowed, it is still impressive at more than 6 per cent,” he said then.

President Trump will be visiting China in November as part of his first trip to Asia.

Source: CNA/hs

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