PM Lee's interview with CNN praised by Americans but criticised in China

Global Times picked up on his comments asking China and the U.S. to work together but left others out.

Kayla Wong | March 30, 2020, 08:54 PM

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's remarks on China and the United States during his live interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, March 29, have received vastly different receptions in the U.S. and China.

Lauded by Americans who are critics of Trump

His explanation on Singapore's response to the Covid-19 outbreak was praised by a largely partisan audience, who compared him to U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of the public health crisis.

Trump has been criticised for being slow and ineffective in his management of the outbreak.

Here are some comments by those who were blown away by PM Lee's interview.

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

Screengrab via Fareed Zakaria/Facebook

PM Lee was praised by American singer Barbra Streisand as well.

Comments that the U.S. and China should cooperate highlighted by Chinese state media

While PM Lee's remarks were mostly well received by the American audience, they were met with a different reception by Chinese social media users.

Highlighting his comments on U.S.-China relations, hawkish state-controlled newspaper Global Times carried his comment that specifically said the U.S. and China have to work together to deal with the virus.

Global Times also emphasised his comment saying that swapping insults and blaming each other for inventing the virus is not going to help solve the problem sooner.

Criticised by Chinese commenters

The post has since attracted a flood of comments from Chinese social media users on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, where nationalistic voices are typically amplified.

Many commenters were furious as they had perceived PM Lee's remarks as standing on the side of the U.S., and not China.

Some were also angered that Singapore comes across as telling China what to do, even though it is many times smaller than China.

Screengrab via Global Times/Weibo

"Easy for one to comment when one is not involved in the matter himself."

Screengrab via Global Times/Weibo

"(China) has clearly given the U.S. lots of lead time, but it's the Americans who did not value it."

Screengrab via Passion News/Weibo

"What does 'swapping of insults' mean? It's the Americans who are the ones creating trouble, okay?"

Screengrab via Global Times/Weibo

"Tiny country, large ambitions."

Screengrab via Passion News/Weibo

"When the outbreak happened in China, the U.S. took advantage of China's vulnerable state. And did they speak out on China's behalf? The U.S. is the source of all sins on earth, the public enemy of all mankind!"

PM Lee defended the Chinese government's response to outbreak

Such reactions were in spite of PM Lee defending the Chinese government in response to Zakaria's question if he thought criticism towards China that it covered up the outbreak in its initial stages was "fair".

PM Lee replied:

"I am sure that there were many aspects of the Chinese response to this outbreak which they will look back upon and believe that they should have done better. But I do not think overall that one can say this would not have happened if the only the Chinese had done the right thing."

While Global Times had not picked up on this comment, CGTN, the English-language arm of state broadcaster CCTV that is catered to a foreign audience, did.

Perhaps that was the reason why comments left on CGTN's post were relatively calmer and less incendiary.

Screengrab via CGTN/Weibo

"Read carefully, everyone! Retract the knives you've drawn."

Screengrab via CGTN/Weibo

"(Referring to those who misunderstood the Chinese headline) Just be a normal animal which doesn't talk if your level of culture doesn't allow you to even understand such a short sentence."

Why the anger?

Such anger could perhaps partly be explained by the disappointment faced by some Chinese when Singapore appears to take another country's side over China's.

According to China experts Chen Nahui and Xue Li, the disappointment comes as there is a shortfall between their expectation of what Singapore -- a country with a majority ethnic-Chinese population -- is "supposed to do", and the reality.

Singapore's leadership has articulated its foreign policy stance repeatedly, saying that it will abide by and promote a rules-based international world order, a condition that is vital for small states like Singapore.

PM Lee lauded by Chinese netizens before

PM Lee, however, has been well received in China for his remarks on various issues in the past.

Back in February, Chinese state media have picked up on PM Lee's remarks that voiced support for the Chinese government's efforts in combating the outbreak.

Many commenters back then had expressed their understanding for Singapore's decision to ban travelers from mainland China as well.

He was also hailed by Chinese commenters back in October 2019 for his remarks on Hong Kong, which said the protesters' five demands were meant to "humiliate" the government.

Mask diplomacy

As the number of locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in China has dropped to near zero in the past days, China is finding itself in a drastically different position globally as compared to two months ago.

It now fares relatively better than the U.S. and Europe, which are currently struggling to contain the outbreak -- the epicentre of the viral outbreak has shifted to Europe, and the number of reported cases in the U.S. has far exceeded that of China's.

The Chinese government was criticised for covering up news of the outbreak when it first started, and stifling the initial voices that tried to warn others about the virus.

But now that the situation is looking up, China has since sent medical supplies and teams of healthcare workers to other countries hit by the pandemic, such as in Europe and Africa, who were grateful for the assistance.

State media has also highlighted such moves on social media platforms like Twitter, which are inaccessible in China.

Top image via Ministry of Communications and Information 


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