Hypocritical for Singapore to rely on China for survival

I refer to the 27 Nov 2014 Straits Times letter “Does S’pore still need a great power to survive?”

Mr Yong is correct, not many people truly understand Singapore’s vulnerability, not even Mr Yong himself.

Geographically, Switzerland is somewhat sandwiched between France and Germany which fought three bitter wars between 1870 and 1940 (including the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 which gave birth to the German Empire). Culturally, Germans and French also form the two biggest ethnicities in Switzerland. It is remarkable that Switzerland didn’t become embroiled in those three wars despite being geographically and culturally close to the two warring nations. If Switzerland can maintain neutrality despite geographical and cultural connections, why can’t Singapore?

It is not correct to say that American influence in Asia Pacific is declining. America continues to have very strong presence in the Asia-Pacific with bases in Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore and Darwin. Even though US forces in South Korea and Japan are being consolidated, those in Guam and Darwin are being expanded. US forces in Darwin will be closer to Singapore.

It would be strange for Singapore to rely on China for survival while hosting an American naval base. That would be like relying on a friend’s adversary for protection. It would be hypocritical too for the government to seek China’s help while continuing to label and persecute Singaporeans as Chinese chauvinists or pro-communists. Furthermore, would PM Lee have the cheek to seek China’s help after joking about Beijing’s free smoke from the window and free pork soup from the tap in front of their American adversaries?

Straits Times letter, Does S’pore still need a great power to survive?, 27 Nov 2014

NOT many people truly understand Singapore’s vulnerability.

When I did my postgraduate studies in Britain in the mid-1980s, I had an opportunity to interact with students from other Commonwealth countries.

We discussed the role of the colonial master, and I was teased when I said Singapore had urged the British government not to pull out its military forces prematurely in the late 1960s.

My classmates believed that nationalism should prevail over colonial affiliation. They did not understand that Singapore, which did not have the capacity to defend itself then, had to rely on a great power like Britain to survive.

Unlike Switzerland, the geographical, political and cultural set-up of Singapore does not warrant or permit us to pursue neutrality.

Now, we can defend ourselves as we have built up our own defence forces. We have also been cooperating militarily with the United States to strengthen our defence and security.

However, will American influence in the Asia-Pacific region continue to decline? Or will it bounce back and prevail?

It is premature to tell whether Singapore will need a great power like China to survive in future. Indeed, as I read the article (“Concrete moves to make Sino-S’pore defence ties stronger”; Nov 15), I wondered if Singapore could survive without one.

A realistic view is for Singapore to explore academic means to enhance military relationships with China.

The two countries can establish a research centre, perhaps called the Institute Of Sun Tzu’s Art Of War, to achieve this purpose.

Sun Tzu’s Art Of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise. Its strategies and tactics have influenced Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics and legal strategies, among other things.

The research centre would symbolise a new era of practical cooperation and face-to-face interactions between Singapore and China. It would also bring new ideas on how Singapore can manoeuvre militarily and diplomatically in this highly complex and uncertain world.

Paul Yong Teck Chong

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