Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Is the Little Red Dot a Special Administrative Region within Greater China?

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.


  1. Thanks for this, Grand Moofti. You are not alone: I too was taken aback. In fact, I was sharing the exact same concern with my friends.

  2. I think it's easy to take it the wrong way. Precisely because SG is majority Chinese, the national Chinese feels we are one of their own.

    One of their own as in the race and ethnicity (sp?), not as in the country.

    But I won't deny that perhaps the mindset mentioned exists. Afterall, Singapore is in the middle of nowhere - some people (non-PRC) thinks we are part of China, some thinks we are part of Malaysia, and the list goes on.

    Several years ago in a chat with a Westerner forumer, I told him I'm from Singapore. He asked if that's in Berlin. I'm still not sure if he was kidding or serious.

    But perhaps we are really part of China? Afterall, didn't Shanmugam and even MM Lee say we are not a country? If we are not a country, we should be under some country.

    Maybe that would be China. ;)

  3. Hi Gweek,

    Thank you for your visit and taking the time to comment on my post.

    I am glad (and relieved) that there are others who share my concerns. I hope you will continue to visit and commenting on other issues in the future.

    Kind regards,


    PS - Interesting comic book site you have!

  4. Hi Jezeballa,

    Thank you for your visit and taking the time to write a comment on my post.

    I agree that probably the comments were not meant in any malicious manner. However, there is a tinge of arrogance in them which I felt one must react to - maybe you disagree? You see, for a non-Chinese if they say 'one of their own' it means something different than it does to an ethnic Chinese.

    After all, I am not one of them.

    In the post-WW II era, the notion of nationhood and national consciousness is an amorphous one. Post-colonial countries were simply legal entities at independence and the culture, history and nationhood is to follow. Singapore's national identity is still being formed.

    In my mind, things like Singlish and even PCK are part of the shared heritage which are helping to define Singapore and Singaporeans more and more.

    Oh, and if Singapore must be under some country then for many obvious reasons (geography and economic linkages being foremost) Malaysia is the logical choice! You might have some strong opinions on that? :)

    Thanks again for your visit and I look forward to your comments again in the future.

    Kind regards,


  5. Hi Imran,

    I won't mind Malaysia if fair treatment can be ensured. Of course the rebuttal is fair treatment never existed in Singapore before (in terms of Malays and Indians), but there is no reason why I'd resist the minority races here getting the rights they deserve.

    But there are many issues with Malaysia I'm concerned of... so yes, you are right that I will have strong opinions about that. :)

    I prefer Singapore to remain as a sovereign nation, but that doesn't seem to be our take.

  6. Hi Jezebella,

    Good to hear from you again.

    I think it's best we just leave Singapore as it is!

    Over time, perhaps a federation of some sort will develop naturally between Singapore and Malaysia? Things are always more durable when they happen naturally rather than when they are forced.

    I do hope you will become a 'regular' on the site and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

    Kind regards,


  7. Good one. Unfortunately, given glaring oversights on the part of the 'opposition', and common feelings at the ground level, what you are saying has generally come about.

    The 'majority what!' assertion, if not often stated, is often felt by the failure of the apathetic and self-absorbed population to take to task a host of efforts to laud and elevate a racially-defined majority over all others...and even to the point the Lee can state that in 2 generations, 'mandarin will be the mother tongue'. What passes as a non-issue in singapore creates much public furore here in the UK with people denouncing the relevant party and persons as neo-Nazis. Not so in singapore. I've often been surprised that much is not attended to. That betrays the mindset of the people. The problem now, is not the government, but the people - regardless of race, etc.

    The people may not feel that singapore is a part of china, but they certainly behave as if it is. A 'SAR' of China? No. A perspectival satellite. Yes.


  8. Hi Ed,

    Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to write a comment.

    I am sure that readers will benefit from your observations and comparison with UK society.

    It is potentially an issue which is creeping up on Singapore. However, I am optimistic. If only because the economic benefits of learning English remain significant and in a materialistic society the economic motive will prevail over many other forces.

    We should, of course, not rule out the unifying power of Singlish which has become a defining characteristic of Singaporean culture!!

    I do hope you will continue to drop by and give readers the benefits of your comments in the future.

    Kind regards,