Ex-Ambassador Mr. Bilahari Kausikan in his commentary ” Foreign policy is no laughing matter” in the Straits Times dated 8 Jun 2015, in making the observation that Chinese leaders and officials repeatedly refer to Singapore as a “Chinese country”, asked rhetorically: “if we were ever foolish enough to accept China’s designation of us as a “Chinese country”, what would it mean for our social cohesion?”
The possibility or risk of Singapore being drawn increasingly to China’s orbit is always there. There are two developments pointing to this route.
Firstly, the global financial uncertainties and unfriendly immediate neigbourhood situations of earlier times forced Singapore to seek better ties and expand trade with China, possibly as a ready fall back measure, to enhance and ensure the nation’s continuous survival and security. It is to be noted that it was Singapore that was reaching out to China and not the other way round. It was a strategic move made by the Government given the prevailing situations then. It seems to be paying good dividends, at least for now.
Secondly the excessive inflow of foreigners has seen a surge in people arriving, in particular, from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. A huge number of them, will over the years, become citizens and this would alter our demographic profile even more significantly. What is there to stop them eventually from playing a leading role in setting the political direction that Singapore should take? Many of them will have their antennas directed towards China and this may undermine Singapore’s future to remain as an independent and neutral country.
As our neighbours, near and far, catch up on us we will become more irrelevant to them and this will have adverse impact on our economy. Singapore’s need for a hinterland seems to be a given, historically and realistically. For many, the causeway link, probably, has to be to Malaysia or over the seas to China. As for people of my generation, the choice is very clear. We need an astute, nimble, forward looking and forward planning Government to navigate through rough waters and chart our future.