There has been much talk about the “new world order”. Having lived through the 1980s, there is a sense of deja vu for me. Back then, most people believed that the West was in decline and Japan would be the new world leader. The Asian way had proven itself to be superior. Or so we thought.
So what exactly is this new world order? Well, it’s a bit like those good old 80s, except that this time, it’s not just about economic rise or decline as in 东升西降. This time around, the line between right and wrong is smudged by the sheer volume of propaganda that distorts facts and mislead gullible individuals from not just the younger but every digitally engaged generation. Even the majority from my generation have stopped reading books and get their information exclusively from social media platforms like TikTok.
Our Prime Minister has been scanty on details but he did reveal a bit on his understanding of the new world order at the Forum of Small States in September 2022, roughly 6 months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This international order is imperfect, but it is by far our best bet,” said Mr Lee. “If we regress to a world where “might is right”, small states would find it impossible to survive and even big countries will not be better off.”
I’m not sure if the bullies will be worse off after engulfing the small fries, but I fully agree with our PM that it is wrong to stand with bullies because you are afraid of what bullies might do. So what if you are the one with the power and hegemony? Would you practise what you preach? Or would you exploit your position to fix weaker parties and shift goalposts to your advantage? Hold that though. I’ll come to that in a moment.
Interestingly on 8 March 2023, our Law Minister Mr Shanmugam’s made a speech at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute workshop outlining “differing perspectives” on the invasion, including the “western view” that President Vladimir Putin had “imperial ambitions” and an “alternative view” suggesting Putin had sought cooperation and peaceful coexistence with the West.
Here we go again. What is a “western” view? Is he not giving credit to the independence of Japanese, Korean, Indian and Taiwanese minds that share the same “western” view? Is the stealing of intellectual property OK from an Asian perspective? You may be surprised, but there are people I know both online and in real life who think that as long as their country benefits, stealing is OK. The new world order?
Mr Shanmugam also stressed that the West and NATO were not uninvolved bystanders in the Ukrainian crisis, citing historical developments since the end of the Cold War. Yao mo gao chor ah? I thought we’ve already looked at the war from all angles and squarely condemned the invasion.
In Parliament earlier this week, Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim sought clarification from Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan regarding the government’s position on the invasion and potential revisions to Singapore’s stance.
In response, Dr Balakrishnan affirmed that Singapore’s position remained unchanged and referred to his previous ministerial statement delivered on 28 Feb 2022, which condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a violation of international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
As we can all see, there is yawning gap between squarely condemning the invasion and the provision of an alternative perspective that Putin had sought cooperation and peaceful coexistence with the West – under his terms which can change at any time, the Budapest Memorandum notwithstanding. Anyone reading our Law Minister’s statement would wonder if there has been a change in our stand on Russia’s invasion of sovereign country.
Remember celebrity criminal Meng Wanzhou? After she was held by Canadian law enforcement and put under “house arrest”, China retaliated by holding innocent Canadian and American people hostages. And she received a hero’s welcome when she arrived in China. Again, I know people who supported her and dismissed all accusations without paying any attention to why she was investigated in the first place. Is being blindly supportive of characters like Meng not more racist and potentially harmful to our multiracial society? Why are people speaking out against policies which favour foreigners over our own citizens being called racists instead?
Back in 2021, Canadian authorities found a diplomat who has been involved with subversive activities, tracking down a Canadian MP’s family in Hong Kong to issue threats. Canada expels the diplomat just a couple of days ago, after much procrastination and public pressure. Did I mention that the diplomat is one Zhao Wei from China? No, it doesn’t matter which country he’s from. As long as a diplomat has interfered with Canada’s home affairs and compromised security, he deserves to be rendered persona non gratia.
Using the same pattern, the Chinese government pulled the racism card. Instead of apologising, China expelled an innocent Canadian diplomat from China and even threatened further action. Is this what the new world order is all about? Apparently, it is!
Until recently, Canada has been one of the most China-friendly Western countries in the world. Why do they expel a Chinese diplomat? Because they have compelling evidence that he is endangering Canadian citizens and their families. But look at some of the comments from the “loyalists”. There is no use arguin g with them. They can deny all the evidence and as long as you call yourself Chinese, you must stand on their side, even if these folks are hooligans.
认祖归宗 simply means that you honour your ancestors. Yours are different from mine. You honour yours. I honour mine. That’s where our obligations with respect to 认祖归宗 end. My great grandfather left China during the Qing Dynasty. Does it mean that I’m obliged to be a fan of the dynasty even though my great grandfather wasn’t terribly fond of the Qing government himself? How on earth can that obligation be passed down to all future governments of that piece of land that has never been my country? Apparently, that’s the new world order.
Somebody called Shanti Pereira an Indian. Former Potong Pasir candidate for SPP Jose Raymond quickly corrected him. Shanti is Singaporean. This is important because if everyone in Singapore tries to 认祖归宗 in that way, our multiracial society will disintegrate. Even if we were to identify ourselves as ethnic Chinese or Indian or Malay or Eurasian, identifying with one’s culture and ancestry should never stop us from distinguishing between right and wrong. Some people have totally lost it in the mist of 认祖归宗.
We come back to the issue of bullying and not playing fair. Our presidential elections will be coming up later this year. Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Mr Chan Chun Sing of Madam President/Speaker fame said the unsurprising thing that about 50 public service roles may fulfil elected presidency requirement. For potential presidential candidates looking to qualify under the private sector service requirement, there are more than 1,200 companies with average shareholders’ equity at or exceeding S$500 million. The bar has been raised again and such high standards will ensure that there will be no “upset”.
Back to the 32nd SEA Games, Singaporean runner Soh Rui Yong won the silver medal in the men’s 10,000m 11 May 2023. Apart from securing the runner-up position, a video taken during the race had gone viral, earning hundreds of thousands of views.
With a little more than five laps to go in the race, Rikki Marthin Luther Marthin from Indonesia tried to grab hold of a bottle of water from the hydration table, but accidentally knocked it over. Soh who was running just behind him, successfully grabbed a cup of water. He poured some over his head and was seen sharing the remainder of his water with Rikki Marthin who was running just ahead of him.
Kindness, compassion and fair play are all part of the old order. It used to be unacceptable to distort history and throw obstacles in the way of our competitors. Let’s do everything we can to stop the new world order.
Boys and girls, learn from Soh Rui Yong gor gor. Don’t learn from people who keep shifting the goalposts to win.
Epilogue: Many people have probably forgotten this, but on 19 March 2019, 28-yo Australian Brenton Tarrant gunned down worshippers in 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. 51 were killed and 40 injured. Tarrant called himself an ethno-nationalist.