Forget the talk about whether we have been consistent in our foreign policy towards China.
And forget the angst over the confiscation of our Terrex vehicles in Hong Kong.
These are only sub-plots of the signal trouble ahead of us, to wit, our becoming unplugged as the centre of the international trading grid.
Singapore's pro-establishment observers have, irresponsibly but perhaps not unexpectedly, tried to downplay the significance of Singapore's exclusion from the OBOR project. Keep calm, they say, nothing to be alarmed about, the PAP government knows what it's doing.
Reality tells us something quite different.
I have pointed out that China's determination to safeguard its trading and security interests by by-passing Singapore is not a whim. Beijing calculates that America is its biggest threat as far as the expansion of its politico-economic interests is concerned.
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Given our strategic location in Southeast Asia and the presence of the US navy at the Changi Naval Base, it is hardly a revelation that China wants to craft for itself an alternate route.
Take it from the horse's mouth. In a forum held just before the OBOR summit, a senior Chinese diplomat berated Singapore for allowing the US to deploy military vessels and aircraft meant to keep tabs on China's operations in the South China Sea.
The Global Times, widely seen as Beijing's mouthpiece in the international arena, published an op-ed yesterday, saying:
"Since 2011, however, the Americans have intensified their campaign to contain China, in the guise of its "pivot" to Asia. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has junked his father's judicious balancing act and turned his country almost into a de facto military base for the US Navy. His words, and those of his ministers, have become increasingly, even enthusiastically, pro-US and China-skeptical, if not outright anti-China."
Given these developments and the amount of cargo passing through our port, it seems unwise for us to underestimate China's determination to avoid using Singapore as a transhipment hub.
In this endeavour, President Xi Jinping has found a more-than-willing partner in Malaysia. In a recent South China Morning Post article, PM Najib Razak cooed: “I am proud to be among the many heads of government and state and other world leaders gathering in Beijing for the...One Belt, One Road initiative.”
Malaysia's skin in the game is the East Coast Rail Line. The track will connect its eastern and western ports and, in Mr Najib's words, “act as a land-bridge enabling cost- and time-efficient transport of goods between Africa, the Middle East and Asia.”
What the Malaysian PM left unsaid was picked up by Mr Goh Bok Yuen, a transportation consultant and urban planner, who predicts that "most of the indirect trade that went through Singapore would return to Malaysia as there is no necessity to use Singapore anymore in the future."
Another consultant added with stomach-churning glee that "This is a dream of a lifetime for Malaysia to eventually stop cargoes transiting through Singapore, with the generous inflow of direct investments and expertise from China now. In 10 years or so, Malaysia can say bye-bye to Singapore."
What are we to make of all this? The Straits Times opinion-makers sooth nerves by pointing out that our planners are at work expanding Tuas into a mega-port. “Singapore,” they remind us, “was named maritime capital of the world for the third time this year.”
Indeed, it was. But it might be timely to also remember that Orchard Road, once Asia's premier shopping belt, is dying with Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur usurping its position.
Singapore Airlines, the airlines that at one time “even other airlines talk about”, recently announced record losses due to intense competition and has been surpassed by its middle-eastern counterparts as the world's best airlines.
As for our port, a similar story-line emerges: Container throughput has fallen while that of Port Klang's has risen. In addition, Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor has “strengthened its position as a major container port”. In terms of port productivity (number of containers moved per hour per ship), we rank below those in China and Malaysia.
So by all means, let's continue to console ourselves that we are still top-drawer and live in our own little bubble. But beware that the hubris sinks Singaporeans into an ever deeper state of complacency, all while our neighbours are on the move. Talk about stealing lunches.
Whatever view one holds of China and its politics, the reality is that we have a situation on our hands - one that arose from the PAP's maladroit handling of international relations and aggravated by the PM's, to put it kindly, missteps.
That he is now keeping silent even as events swirl about us is unnerving, if not altogether depressing.