Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee's is no stranger to controversy. His most recent storm was caused by his comments about the regional balance of power.
"The size of China makes it impossible for the rest of Asia, including Japan and India, to match it in weight and capacity in about 20 to 30 years. So we need America to strike a balance." MM Lee.
Many ordinary Chinese felt slighted by their perception that MM Lee treated China as an outsider. The Chinese, it seems, see Singapore as one of 'our own.' Obviously, Big Brother China feels betrayed by the impolite remarks of one of its smaller siblings.
Can anyone spot the Little Red Dot on the map?
As a member of the non-Chinese minority in Singapore, the comments by Chinese netizens struck a chord within me. Hopefully, I will not be the only person who was taken aback.
Singapore is not a Chinese country. (Please correct me if I am being naively idealistic.)
Singapore is a country with a population which is majority Chinese. Singapore's main language is not Mandarin but English. In fact, many of Singapore's older generation speak Malay and not Mandarin.
Not particularly the signs of a Chinese republic, or am I deceiving myself?
However, if Singaporeans are not careful a subtle change in attitude can precipitate larger problems for the future - a new 'Singaporean' mindset which incorrectly views Singapore as part of 'Greater China.'
The impact of the recent wave of Chinese immigrants has some signs of a shifting attitude becoming more visible. Today, it is not uncommon for Chinese service staff to insist on speaking Mandarin (at the expense of English).
For me, that often means I ask a question and my (Chinese) friend will get the reply. I feel like a superfluous stranger. It is a frustrating experience.
Singapore's national consciousness is a work in progress. Singaporean 'character' is influenced by a top down policy approach engendered by the government. To date, the system of highlighting cultural differences between the various ethnic groups have worked well.
However, over time the racial complexities of Singaporean society have increased. Perhaps a new tack now needs to be considered in dealing with a more cosmopolitan and urbanized population mix.
Ultimately, ordinary residents will determine the nature of Singaporean society. As long as we behave by remembering that our neighbours may not be Chinese we (or I?) should be fine.