Is General Yeo right? Does China really look up to Singapore as a Tai Kor?

November 23, 2010

(To increase the font in this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +)

During Mr Ngiam’s book launch; General Yeo laid claim to many things – I guess he said many things obliquely and not directly – this, I can understand. I will take issue with him on only one contention – and it concerns his observations about how he claims – how so many Chinese bureaucrats still consider Singapore as a “die-die” must learn from success story – I think at best this account misleads; at worst it lulls us into a false sense of security.

The truth is there is very little for the Communist Chinese to learn from us – and the sooner we realize this, the better it is for all of us.

I know this may come as a rude awakening to many; so let me share with all of you this story. Many years ago, while studying in the UK, I chanced across a knot of Chinese students – from their shabby attire and furtive glances, I gathered they must have been from the mainland. We struck up a friendship of sorts – though we had very little in common – there was one thing that united us, our fascination for space and UFO’s.

So every weekend on the dot; we would all meet in some field in the English countryside and set up our tripods and scope the night sky – during these sessions, it was not uncommon to BBQ some chicken wings and wolf them down with cider and ale- soon it became apparent to all of us; the Communist Chinese enjoyed these meets immensely – but people being people can be very cruel; behind their backs, the English would refer to them as bumpkins, the Americans called them hill Billies – I myself found it impossible not to buy into the caricature of how many of us saw them – bungling’ clumsy and unworldly to the point of being uncouth -that was many years ago.

A few years ago – I receive an anonymous letter requesting for certain calculations to be performed – the brief originated from a discreet law firm based in Zurich – they paid very well; as I recall, the work had something to do with load vibration under high speeds and how certain materials will perform under X,Y and Z conditions – so I accepted.

After I had completed the assignment, I was asked to fly to London and hand deliver my brief – this I considered unusual; but the tone in the letter was most insistent, suggesting that should I fail to show up in person – the final instalment will be withheld – so I relented.

On the hour, when I entered the Cafe Royale just off Piccadily Circus – I was shown by the maitre to a private dining booth – there 2 gentlemen greeted me – they were impeccably dressed – we dined on beluga caviar; poisson de la creme with generous lashings of Chateau Lafite 1935 – one of the two seated opposite me was one of the students who used to carry the tripod during our weekly BBQ night watches – he was now the managing director of one of the largest rolling stock manufacturers in China.

From that moment, I realized that BBQ chicken wings and discounted cider were things of the past that belong to a bygone age.

Darkness – 2010

This excerpt is part of an essay that has been withheld from general circulation due to measured response.

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