For the English translation of the Chinese speech,
please scroll down or click here.
. . . . .
1 Mr Speaker, in Mandarin please.
7 根据通讯及新闻部2022年 7月的一项调查，百分之86 的新加坡人认为政府应该根据国家利益行事，避免在中美之间选边站。只有百分之4认为新加坡应该靠向中国，另外百分之4认为新加坡应该靠向美国。
13 如果世界大同，各国之间同样友好，同样地合作，任何一国与其他国家的关系就不会显得特别的 “平衡” 或 “不平衡”。但如果世界大乱，国与国之间非敌即友，那么任何一国也很难与各个阵营的国家保持同样友好的关系。
14 中美两个大国之间已经出现严重的分歧，而新加坡又同时与两者保持良好的关系。这才产生所谓寻求 “平衡” 的概念。但是，新中关系和新美关系，并不是靠新加坡单方面施展平衡术得来的，而是建立在多年的实质性、互惠共赢的合作经验之上。
17 新加坡支持中国持续改革开放，并深入参与了中国的发展进程。新中三个国家级的合作项目，标志着中国的各个发展阶段。苏州工业园区建立于1990年代；当时中国正在迅速地工业化。2008 年，我们配合中国对于环保的关注，开展了新中天津生态城的合作。2015年，为了强化中国与世界接轨，我们开展了新中重庆互联互通示范项目，促成了中新国际陆海贸易新通道。
22 政府鼓励新加坡人理解和欣赏友族文化；肯定和推广由各个文化相互交融形成的结晶品，如我国正在与东南亚四国联合申遗的传统服装kebaya; 也鼓励国人传承并发扬各自族群文化，包括华族文化。与此同时，我们树立的是高度一致的国民认同。如果根据新加坡华社的面貌，投射新加坡在国际上应该采取的立场，难免会有所偏差。
23 资深报人林任君先生今年初在《联合早报》发表了一篇评论，探讨 “被选边”的问题，提及《早报网》被海外媒体划入所谓的“中国网军媒体“之列。具有一定信誉的海外媒体尚且会对《联合早报》有这种主观的看法，那些不清楚新加坡具体国情的海外人士会如何想象新加坡，可见一斑。
25 正如王教授所指出，新加坡是个独立的主权民族国家，也是全球城市，属于亚细安的旗帜下，也处于东南亚地区的心脏和中心位置。王教授其中一段话特别精辟。他说： “…新加坡从一开始就奉行一项非凡的原则，即承认在这里出生的每个人都是平等的，多元社会将是这个新国家的基础，就我所知，这在其他国家绝无仅有。其他任何国家一开始都说，谁占多数，谁就决定立国的基本原则… 新加坡是我所知道的，唯一情况正好相反的国家：主要族群明白，他们生活在一个多元社会，但在国家所处的区域，他们却是少数族群。他们接受必须平等对待每个人，多元社会是新加坡建国基础的原则。以这种方式开启国家建设进程，是很罕见的。”
33 美国于2022 年5月启动的印太经济框架，新加坡也有参与。我们认为这个框架会深化美国在本区域的经济合作，符合新加坡对于开放、包容、以规则为基础的国际秩序的支持，并希望它会带来更实质的经济成果。新美合作也延伸至网络安全、数码经济、可持续发展，甚至外太空。这些合作领域反应了新美关系的广度和深度。
34 如同新中关系一样，不难看出，新美关系的立足点与新加坡基于原则的追求 — 区域和平、国际秩序、互惠共赢的经贸合作 — 是密不可分的。这些原则不仅主导新中关系与新美���系的发展，也主导着新加坡与大国、中等强国、区域邻国发展友谊与合作。目前，我国与世界各国都享有良好的关系。
35 虽说我们在国际上致力于广交朋友，不过我们更重视扮演好 “诚信中介” 的角色。这个概念源自于新加坡作为自由港口对贸易客户履行的义务，也是我国在参与国际事务时为伙伴国创造价值的方式。要做一个具诚信的中介，就必须：言行一致; 言之有物，不能只挑好话说；或是向不同的对象说不同的话。
42 这种局面，新加坡该如何应对？如果我们的应对方式只有“继续不站队、不出头”, 那未免过于消极。我们自然希望看到世界局势好转，我们也会为此付出努力。具体的做法，便是努力地拓宽国际合作的基础。
46 在经贸领域，新加坡一如既往地捍卫自由、开放、以规则为导向、世界贸易组织为代表的多边贸易体制。除了在世贸组织的层面努力，我国也积极推广数个具前瞻性的自由贸易协定，以促进经济融合。其中包括跨太平洋伙伴全面进展协定 (CPTPP)；以及和澳洲、智利、纽西兰、英国等国家签署数码经济协议、绿色经济协议。
. . . . .
1 Mr Speaker, in Mandarin please.
2 Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to join the debate.
3 The first issue raised by President Halimah in her Address was that of the global situation. How Singapore can stand firm in a turbulent world is a major challenge that the Government and Singaporeans must jointly face.
4 It is commonly said in diplomatic circles that “foreign policy begins at home”. In other words, it is much easier to conduct foreign policy successfully when a country’s citizens share a common understanding of national interests. This is why it is also part of MFA’s role to attend community or school campus dialogues. The most commonly‑asked questions in recent years are: How does Singapore maintain good bilateral relations with the US and China at the same time? How should we continue to maintain this balance?
5 Observers and analysts of global developments, media commentators, and Singaporeans who care about current affairs are all likely to have views on this topic. Take PM Lee’s recent Official Visit to China for instance. A friend remarked happily to me that the visit was excellent, because he felt that Singapore has been looking rather pro-US of late. It was time for balance!
6 Maintaining a balance between the US and China appears to have become a yardstick by which Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike measure the success of our foreign policy. It is akin to a panel of judges assessing a gymnast’s performance on the balance beam. Based on this yardstick, if Singapore’s leaders made remarks that appear to favour one side, then balance must be promptly restored by saying or doing something that pleases the other side – to demonstrate ‘impartiality’ like holding a bowl of water in equilibrium.
7 An MCI poll in July 2022 showed that 86% of Singaporeans felt that their Government should always act in Singapore’s best interests and not take sides between the US and China. Only 4% felt that Singapore should lean towards China, and 4% felt that Singapore should lean towards the US.
8 Some might think of our foreign policy in terms of not taking sides, keeping our head down, and maintaining neutrality in all matters.
9 Does Singapore’s foreign policy boil down to a balancing act? This is worth unpacking and addressing.
10 I wish to make three points:
- First, our foreign policy is driven by our principles, not a quest for balance.
- Second, the space available to Singapore depends not on our ability to perform a balancing act, but whether any basis for cooperation remains between major powers.
- Third, Singapore will do its utmost to broaden the basis of international cooperation.
Balance is a perceived outcome, but not the objective of our foreign policy
11 As a small country lacking in natural resources and highly dependent on free trade, we need:
- A peaceful and secure external environment;
- Transparent and effective international law and a stable global order; and
- An efficient, well-regulated and globalised market economy system.
Singapore depends on these factors for our survival, autonomy and prosperity. These are the core principles that shape our foreign policy.
12 How does the perception of balance come about?
13 In a highly harmonious world, where all bilateral relations are equally good, no one country would stand out for having particularly balanced or imbalanced relations with others. However, in a highly fractious world, it would be hard to maintain equally strong ties with countries belonging to different camps.
14 Serious differences have emerged between China and the US, yet Singapore continues to maintain strong bilateral relations with both sides. This creates the perception of a so-called “balancing act”. But Singapore-China and Singapore-US relations were not built on the basis of Singapore unilaterally maintaining a balancing act. Rather, these bilateral relations reflect decades of substantive, win-win collaboration.
15 Let’s consider Singapore-China relations.
16 We have longstanding and friendly relations with China. Over the past decades, we have witnessed profound and rapid changes in China alongside its development. Through its pursuit of market-based economic development, China has made great strides in uplifting the lives of its 1.4 billion citizens. We believe that China’s peaceful rise and growing economy will be an important engine of growth for the Asia-Pacific and the world.
17 Singapore has supported China’s continued reform and opening up, and participated in China’s development journey over the years. Our three Government-to-Government projects have supported China’s economic development through various phases. The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) was established in the 1990s during China’s rapid industrialisation; the Sino‑Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (SSTEC) was launched in 2008 in concert with China’s focus on sustainability; and the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI) started in 2015 to grow China’s linkages with the world, resulting in the establishment of the CCI-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor.
18 Trade and investment with China have brought tangible benefits for its many economic partners, including Singapore. We are one of the largest investors in China, who is our top trading partner in goods. Our eight Provincial Business Councils across China have brought about mutually beneficial opportunities for our peoples and businesses.
19 During PM’s Official Visit to China last month, Singapore and China upgraded our relationship to an “All‑Round High-Quality Future‑Oriented Partnership”. This reflects both sides’ commitment to continually expand bilateral cooperation, and pursue high-quality collaboration in forward-looking areas such as the digital and green economies.
20 When Singapore-China relations are discussed, many would also think of the role played by the ethnic Chinese community in Singapore. Indeed, the fact that Singapore has an ethnic Chinese majority population means that most Singaporeans would be able to trace their ancestry to somewhere in China, usually the southern coastal provinces. There are ties of culture and kinship. Moreover, with Singapore’s bilingual education policy, many Singaporeans of Chinese descent would be able to use the Chinese language to some degree even though English is our working language. The sense of familiarity and ease makes it more convenient for ethnic Chinese Singaporeans to communicate and work with partners from China. Without a doubt, people-to-people ties spanning culture, kinship and language help enrich Singapore-China relations.
21 But to interpret Singapore-China relations from the cultural perspective may result in a skewed view, or misunderstandings. Those who are not equipped with a deep understanding of Singapore might find it hard to hoist in this point. Singaporeans are citizens of an independent country, but may also identify culturally with being ethnically Chinese, Malay, Indian or others. National identity and cultural identity are two different matters.
22 The Government encourages Singaporeans to appreciate the cultural heritage of fellow Singaporeans, celebrate the products of intermingling between different cultures (such as the kebaya, which Singapore is partnering four other Southeast Asian countries in nominating for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list), and honour and develop their own cultural heritage. This includes Chinese culture. At the same time, we seek to shape a highly unified national identity. It would be inaccurate to project Singapore’s position in international affairs based on what one observes of Singapore’s Chinese community.
23 In an editorial published in Lianhe Zaobao early this year, veteran editor Mr Lim Jim Koon discussed how the newspaper has been assumed to take sides in geopolitical terms on various occasions. In an example he raised, Lianhe Zaobao’s website was identified as pro-China by a foreign news organisation. If a reputable overseas news organisation could espouse such a subjective view of Lianhe Zaobao, we can only imagine what those who do not know us well would think of Singapore.
24 Historian Professor Wang Gungwu’s recent speech on “What does it mean to be ethnically Chinese in Singapore?” has created some buzz. Tracing the development of the Chinese community in Singapore over several centuries, Professor Wang made clear that the definition of ethnic Chinese in Singapore is a complex and indeed convoluted issue.
25 As Professor Wang has pointed out, Singapore is an independent sovereign nation state, a global city, situated at the heart and centre of Southeast Asia and under the umbrella of ASEAN. The following was put in particularly succinct terms by Professor Wang, who said: “…Singapore had started out with an extraordinary principle, not known in any nation I know of, one that recognised everyone born here as equal, and that the plural society would be the basis of a new nation. No other national did that. As far as I know, every other nation began by saying that whoever was the majority would determine the fundamentals of nationhood… Singapore is the only one I know of in which it was the other way round; the majority accepted that the live in a plural society, in a neighbourhood in which they are a minority. They accepted that they had to treat everybody as equal and that the plural society was the foundation of Singapore’s nationhood. It was an extraordinary way to start the nation-building process.”
26 Professor Wang’s expert analysis on the extraordinary choice made by Singapore in pursuit of national identity would be of great value to anyone seeking to understand Singapore better. Meanwhile, Singaporeans of Chinese ethnicity are very clear: they are Singaporean citizens, and Singapore huaren (people of Chinese ethnicity), not huaqiao (“overseas Chinese”).
27 Hence, Singapore’s foreign policy must stand for the interests of all citizens, including Chinese Singaporeans, Malay Singaporeans, Indian Singaporeans, Eurasian Singaporeans and so forth. These are reflected in our pursuit of a safe and secure external environment, a stable global order, and a globalised market economy. China’s embarkation on reform and opening up has created a broad basis of collaboration between Singapore and China. Hence, we have been able to build excellent bilateral relations.
28 Singapore-US relations are similarly excellent, and established on the basis of the principles shaping our foreign policy.
29 The US played a vital role in underwriting the world order that emerged after the Second World War. It paved the way for stability and prosperity in Asia by championing an open, integrated, and rules based global order. By providing a security umbrella for the region, the US has enabled regional countries to trade and grow peacefully. American companies invested extensively in Asia, including Singapore, bringing capital, technology, and ideas and contributing to the vibrancy of the region.
30 The US continues to be a force for economic vitality, and greater engagement will bring about benefits for the entire region. Today, the US is the largest investor in Singapore and ASEAN, and Singapore’s top trading partner in services. The US is also our third-largest trading partner in goods. US companies are well-regarded in Singapore for their innovation, business practices and commitment to growing talent.
31 Our leaders have maintained good relations with their US counterparts. PM visited the US twice last year, while several Cabinet Ministers have visited the US in the past year. We have also hosted visits by key members of the Biden Administration and Members of Congress.
32 Our security and defence ties with the US go back many decades. Singapore is a Major Security Cooperation Partner of the US, and we support the US military presence and its defence engagements in the region. Our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in 1990 and renewed recently in 2019, provides the US military with access to Singapore’s air and naval bases.
33 Singapore joined the US’ Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) when it was launched in May 2022. The IPEF will strengthen the US’ regional economic engagement, and is in line with our interests for promoting an open, inclusive, and rules‑based world order. Singapore hopes that the IPEF would bring about more tangible economic benefits. US‑Singapore cooperation is also expanding into new frontiers like cybersecurity, digital economy, sustainable development, and even space. These areas of cooperation reflect the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship.
34 As with the Singapore-China relationship, it is not hard to see how the grounds for Singapore US cooperation is inseparable from our principled pursuit of regional peace and security, a stable international order, and win-win economic collaboration through trade and investment. This approach is not limited to how we have built up our ties with China and with the US. We pursue our interests by strengthening and deepening our ties with all countries including the superpowers, middle powers, and our neighbours in the region. At this point in time, our relations with all countries are very good.
35 We seek to make friends and keep friends, but above all, we must maintain our standing as an honest broker. This concept stems from our obligations as a free port, but is also how Singapore seeks to create value for our partners in international affairs. This means doing what we say, and saying what we do; not just telling others what they want to hear; and not saying different things to different parties.
36 At times and on certain issues, we have to be prepared to take a stand, and even say “no” to a superpower, on the basis of our own national interest. We do so carefully, after careful analysis of the principles at stake. We have not been afraid to take a position and make known our views, even where we disagree or what we do displeases others. Only when we persist in being honest, credible, and trustworthy – not a vassal state, proxy, or stalking horse for one power or another – will our views be taken seriously.
The space available to Singapore depends not on our balancing skills, but on whether some basis of cooperation remains between the major powers
37 Mr Speaker, many important issues that the world is grappling with require cooperation between countries big and small, including public health and climate change. Cooperation can co-exist with competition. Cooperation can also co-exist with differences in values and ideology.
38 The global market and trade in goods and services is one of the broadest mechanisms of cross-border cooperation. International law is equally important, providing a peaceful avenue for resolving differences and disputes. There has never been full agreement on all global issues. But differences do not and should not necessarily translate into conflict. With a rules-based international order, international cooperation is made possible, with conditions for all countries to trade, do business, and compete peacefully.
39 Ultimately, these mechanisms depend on trust and respect between the world’s major players. In theory, global supply chains reflect comparative advantages enjoyed by various economies, and promote the rational allocation of resources. Consumer welfare throughout the world depends on the division of labour between numerous businesses spread over different economies, particularly at a time of rapid innovation in complex technology products.
40 In a world without mutual trust, national security considerations will fuel suspicions between economies, impacting cross-border division of labour. This is especially true of dual-use goods, software, and technology. Hence, international controversies surrounding 5G network equipment, the production of semiconductor chips, and even specific mobile apps have arisen. These controversies are extremely difficult to resolve without mutual trust. This could cause global supply chains, once tightly integrated, to unravel, to the detriment of all. It becomes harder for all parties to maintain confidence in multilateralism and globalisation, while nativist sentiments overshadow economic imperatives.
41 If major powers treat each other with suspicion, misunderstandings and prejudices will only deepen, and the international order will inevitably be shaken. The erosion of the foundations of international cooperation would have grave consequences for regional peace and security, a stable international order, and economic collaboration – all critical for Singapore. There will be significant missed opportunities to prosper jointly, and to tackle global problems. No amount of balancing would help in such a scenario.
Singapore will do our utmost to broaden the basis of international cooperation
42 What should Singapore’s response be? It would be rather passive to focus on lying low and avoid taking sides. We want to see the global situation improve, and will make efforts towards this. We will do our part by taking concrete steps to broaden the basis for international cooperation wherever possible.
43 In our region of Southeast Asia, Singapore is committed to building an ASEAN‑centred regional architecture.
44 Beyond ASEAN, Singapore has championed and contributed to the rules‑based multilateral system, which is key to effective governance of the global commons. This includes participating actively in the development of international rules and norms at the United Nations. We followed up with our role in bringing about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adopted in 1982, by facilitating the conclusion of an international legally‑binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement) last month. Our success in facilitating the conclusion of these landmark agreements reflects the trust that the international community has in Singapore to play the role of an honest broker, especially at a time when geopolitical rivalries are intensifying.
45 We take climate change very seriously as it is an existential issue for a low‑lying island like Singapore. Singapore co-facilitated negotiations on developing carbon markets over the past two years, thereby contributing to the world’s collective effort to limit global carbon emissions.
46 On the economic front, we continue to uphold a free, open, and rules-based multilateral trading system as embodied by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Beyond the WTO, we have also promoted inclusive economic integration through forward looking trade agreements, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as well as Digital Economy Agreements and Green Economy Agreements with countries like Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and the UK.
47 Singapore has also played an active role in norms‑setting and global governance on other issues in which we have a stake. We are helping to build a secure and peaceful cyberspace through chairing the OEWG, or Open‑ended Working Group on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies 2021-2025; and contributing to the global fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism through Singapore’s Presidency of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
48 Singapore participates and takes on leadership roles in these platforms to foster common ground on which countries big and small can work together; to encourage the restoration of strategic trust; and to fortify multilateralism as the way forward to address new challenges and opportunities. While there are limits to what we can do as a small country, we must act on our conviction on multilateralism and our needs for peace and security and economic development, and do our utmost to broaden the basis for international cooperation.
49 Mr Speaker, let me return to the observation that “foreign policy begins at home”. The effectiveness of a country’s foreign policy rests on the understanding and support it receives from its people.
50 I hope that what I have shared would help Singaporeans who care about international affairs gain more insight into what we hope to achieve with diplomacy.
51 Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.
. . . . .