George Yeo: There is concerted effort from the U.S. to put China down

Mounting criticisms about China from the West is part of a larger strategy to  “win over more allies” against the country, and is part of a concerted effort  from the United States to “put China down”, former foreign affairs minister George Yeo opined.

Yeo shared his perspective regarding China’s relations with the U.S. in an interview with Chinese state-controlled media outlet Global Times that was published on June 16.

Wolf warrior diplomacy a “clever” label slapped by the West on China

The former statesman spoke about the “wolf warrior diplomacy” label pinned on China by Western analysts, calling it a strategy by the West to label China as defensive or hostile.

“This label, ‘wolf warrior,’ is a very ‘clever’ label put by Western critics of China,” Yeo said.

With such a label, China is put on the defensive, he opined, adding that “the moment you criticise back in the same tone, you are a ‘wolf warrior’ “.

He further said that it is not in China’s interest to always be on the defensive, and that it could be “more humble, to be more elegant, like the way Chinese people are to other Chinese people”.

The term “wolf warrior diplomacy” was coined from a Rambo-style Chinese action film, “Wolf Warrior 2”.

While it is unclear who coined the term, the BBC’s Chinese-language service used it in coverage of a heated July 2019 Twitter exchange between a senior Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, and former U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice about race, according to The Washington Post.

Yeo added that Western criticism against China is part of a larger strategy to put China on the defensive and “win over more allies against China”, as well as to reduce China’s threat to Western dominance in the current world order.

“There is a a concerted effort to put China down,” he said, adding that while China is not a threat to the U.S., it is a “threat to American dominance in the world” just by its growth and growing influence.

Need “wisdom on both sides” to avoid military conflict between U.S. and China

Yeo said that a military conflict between the two powerhouses could be a huge setback to humanity, and urged for “wisdom on both sides” to prevent a calamity.

He spoke about the U.S.’s attitude towards Taiwan, adding that “U.S. acceptance of Taiwan as part of China is the basis of U.S.-China relations”.

“This is not a card. This is the bedrock. If you start playing with the bedrock, you can bring down the whole structure of relations between two very big and important countries,” he warned.

He pointed out that politics within the U.S. administration can sometimes overwhelm the system as well. He gave an example:

“If in the South China Sea or East China Sea, where the two navies and air forces are in close proximity, an accident happens and a few dozen American and Chinese servicemen die. Immediately on both sides there will be great anger and a great desire to escalate.

China can keep the temperature under control. But, in the U.S., it may quickly go out of control. The problem will suddenly become much bigger. It is a possibility which China must carefully factor into its calculation.”

Yeo pointed out that such a situation would be undesirable for many countries in the world, especially for Southeast Asian countries, which have close economic ties to both sides.

Singapore and China share many similarities

Yeo also said that Singapore and China shared many similar characteristics despite the vast difference in history.

He pointed out that the Chinese majority in Singapore “share common cultural characteristics” with Chinese people in China.

He further opined that the political systems of both countries share “similar genetics with common cultural genes”, although Singapore follows a political system derived from the British model from its colonial days.

While the People’s Action Party is a democratic party, it’s organisational structure has Leninist roots, he said.

He also spoke about China’s “intrigue” with Singapore’s ruling party, with many Chinese delegations visiting Singapore to study about its policies and governance model.

“No other major country takes such a close interest in us,” he commented.

He added that it was to Singapore’s advantage to share the experiences with the Asian powerhouse.

U.S.-style democracy not suitable for Asian countries

The former minister also opined that it is “impossible” for a U.S.-style democratic system to work in East and Southeast Asian countries, pointing out the difference in history, tradition, and societal values.

He pointed out that other countries find it difficult to understand the absence of a firearm ban, but that many had also failed to note that the U.S. was a frontier society until recently, and settlers needed guns to protect themselves.

“This is a part of America history and tradition,” he said.

Compared to the history and traditions of Asian societies, such as Japan’s feudal history and China’s imperial past, he explained that a fixed U.S.-style democracy would not work in many Asian countries.

Yeo added that the most important factor in good governance is not the structure or system, but the “moral quality of the people and their leaders”.

He also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his efforts in reversing the trend of corruption in China, which he said was one of the teething problems in Chinese society.

“If China can continue to control corruption, its future will be very bright,” he said.

You can read the full interview here.

Top image collage via Getty images, Xinhua