The challenge for Singapore: Becoming a truly global city

Dear Professor Wang Gungwu,

I refer to the 27 Oct 2010 report of your interview with the Straits Times.

You said that Singapore cannot be a nation state based on one people, one religion and one culture so Singapore has to be a global city to get round it. Your reasoning is logically incoherent. If Singapore can’t be one people, one religion and one culture, then Singapore must be multi-people, multi-religion and multi-culture. But multi-people, multi-religion and multi-culture doesn’t necessarily mean global city. Thus, Singapore need not be a global city to be multi-everything.

Whatever challenges that Singapore faces have to be seen in the context of the relatively peaceful world that we live in today, a point that even MM Lee concedes. This is not to say that we should take peace for granted. For even when we consider one people, one religion and one culture, war happens such as in the case of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Thus, the Singapore challenge you have ascribed is one that is ever present regardless of people, religion or culture.

If the worry is that of our neighbours fearing that our 75% Chinese will be pulled by China, how would being a global city help? Let’s say we become a global city of Americans, English, the French and so on, what is stopping our neighbours from worrying that our whatever percentage of Americans, English and French won’t be pulled by America, England or France? Going by your logic, the only way our neighbours can feel at ease is when we become like them, not when we become global.

Thus, being global doesn’t help us win the trust of our neighbours, which is merely an excuse for us to be more global than we already are.


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