QUICK NAVIGATION

News

National Day Rally 2019 (Chinese Speech)

PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 18 August 2019 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. PM spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English.

18 Aug 2019

PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 18 August 2019 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. He spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English.

For the English translation, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

国庆群众大会 2019

各位同胞,大家晚上好!

新加坡开埠200周年纪念

今年是新加坡的开埠200周年。

1819年是我国发展史的转捩点。那一年,莱佛士登陆新加坡,并且在这里设立了自由贸易港,吸引了大批移民从东南亚、印度和中国到这里谋生。我们的华族先辈有的来自中国广东、潮汕和福建,有的则来自邻近地区如槟城、马六甲和廖内群岛。他们刚来时,大多只能做苦力,勉强糊口。不过,他们刻苦拼搏,结果都找到立足之地,在这里安家立业。一些后来做起小生意,教育程度比较高的会当老师、做记者。有些则成了大园主,或者创办了银行和贸易行。

他们可以说是我们的“开埠一代”,为这里做出巨大的贡献。当年的华社领袖就设立宗乡会馆和商会,帮助同乡融入本地生活,以及协助他们创业。这些“头家”也号召整个华社出钱出力,创办医院和学校、建造庙宇等,让同胞受惠。

当时,我们的先辈与自己的祖国保持密切的联系。他们来到南洋时,只把自己当成这里的过客,总有一天要落叶归根。他们还是中国人,也热爱着自己的家乡和祖国,并且参与中国的政治运动,在革命与战争中付出了生命。

百多年前,孙中山先生创立的同盟会,南洋总支部就设在新加坡。同盟会倾全力推翻满清政府,好几次的武装起义就是在晚晴园里策划的。

30年代,当日本入侵中国时,新加坡华社再次组织起来,加入抗日运动。华社领袖陈嘉庚带头筹钱,并号召华侨支援中国抗战,这包括许多回到中国参与抗战的南侨机工。这就是为什么,日本占领新加坡后,展开了大检证,数以万计的华人遭到日军报复。

二战结束后,新中国成立了。在这个历史的大洪流中,东南亚许多充满理想的热血青年受到新中国成立的启发,也加入了东南亚各地的反殖民斗争。当时,海外的华人身份认同模糊,有些身在南洋,却心在中国。他们的效忠意识受到质疑,也造成了中国与东南亚国家的矛盾。

从50年代开始,中国就将海外的华人区分为“海外华侨”和“华人”。“海外华侨”指的是选择保留中国国籍的人。“华人”指的却是加入所在国国籍的人。当时的中国总理周恩来先生就明确地表明,一旦加入所在国的国籍,这些华人就不再拥有中国国籍,应当效忠入籍的国家。

在那个时候,我们的先辈必须做出人生中的重大抉择,要继续留在新加坡,还是回去祖国。最后,他们大多数选择留在新加坡,并且和其他种族一起建立一个多元种族的社会和独立的国家。

60年代,新加坡走向独立,华社组织也和政府合作,积极推动我国的社会和经济发展,以及国防建设。在1967年,为了鼓励国人支持新推行的国民服役政策,新加坡中华总商会就为头两批入伍的青年制作了奖章。奖章的正面,有代表新加坡的五颗星星和一个月亮,以及“新加坡中华总商会”的字样,背面显示的是“National Service”(国民服役),以及“尽忠报国”这四个字。这个奖章是限量版的,很有纪念价值。

1968年,政府设立了国防基金,鼓励国人捐款支持国防建设。当时的筹款目标是1000万元,而中华总商会就筹到超过100万元。这显示,本地华人从那个时候,已经开始把他们的效忠意识转移到新加坡,认同新加坡公民的新身份。

Wan Qing Yuan / Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

由此可见,新加坡华人是经过了两百多年,才逐渐形成自己的身份认同。我们的先辈为自己的祖国所做出的奉献与牺牲,是一种高贵的情操,也是值得我们珍惜的精神遗产。为了纪念先辈的事迹,我们把晚晴园列为国家古迹,也在那里竖立雕像纪念南侨机工。

同样的,为了表达我们对二战时期死难人民的敬意,每年的2月15日,各族同胞也会一同出席庄严的悼念仪式,纪念那些在战争中牺牲,来自不同种族的无辜老百姓和抗战英雄。日本占领新加坡的惨痛经历,激发了各个种族的国家意识,也坚定了我们要当家作主的决心。

马来和印度社群在建立身份认同方面也有相同的经历。他们刚来新加坡的时候,也把自己当作过客。在反殖民斗争中,印度人深受印度独立斗争的影响,马来人则深受印尼和马来亚民族运动的影响。我们当年争取脱离殖民地统治,号召群众的口号 – Merdeka! (独立!)– 就来自印尼和马来亚的政治运动。尽管大家与各自的祖国有密切的联系,本地的马来人、印度人和欧亚裔人最终也和华人一样,选择在这里落地生根。就这样,他们从“落叶归根”变成“落地生根”,逐渐对新加坡产生认同。同样的,今天的新移民也需要一段时间,才会完全融入本地社会,认同与效忠新加坡。

现在,世界进入了多事之秋,新加坡也面临着严峻的考验。知道我国的发展史,能够帮助我们了解新加坡的国家意识是怎么形成的。这也有助于我们理解当今的世界局势,以及新加坡在国际问题上的观点。

中美纠纷

相信,大家最近都很关注中美两国日益紧张的关系。两个大国的纠纷,使世界各国陷入一个困难的处境,大家都不想在中美之间选边站,新加坡也不例外。因此,今晚我想谈一谈中美纠纷,以及它对新加坡的影响。

中国改革开放以来,发展迅速,晋升为世界第二大经济体。从各方面来看,中国的腾飞对中国本身乃至全世界,都带来了巨大好处,但这也产生了新的国际格局。

作为世界头号强国的美国,必须容纳一个更有影响力的、日益强大的中国。美国也必须接受,阻挡中国的崛起,是不可能的,也是不明智的。美国必须与中国寻求建设性的关系,以及在经济上互相依存的关系。

成为一个世界强国之后,中国本身也应该设身处地,考虑到其他国家的利益和感受。这样,中国才能和世界各国和平相处,才能成为大家眼中一个宽容大度的国家,以及一个共谋福利的伙伴。

中美之间有竞争是必然的,但同时,双方也必须加强互信,并且通过适当的机制处理无可避免的摩擦。

遗憾的是,中国和美国至今还没有找到化解矛盾的“灵丹妙药”。这是令人担忧的。这样的紧张关系在短期内不会纾解 ,这将影响整个世界的格局。

对新加坡的影响 – 外交

至于对新加坡的影响,我们可以从两个方面来谈。首先,是我们的对外关系,尤其是与中美两国的关系。第二,是我们的经济。

让我先谈一谈对外关系。新加坡是中国的好朋友,也是美国的好朋友。我们很希望同两国继续保持友好关系。

美国是我们主要的国防安全伙伴。我们向美国购买先进的军事装备,包括军机、导弹等。我们的武装部队也经常和美军举行联合训练。新加坡虽然不是美国的盟国,但在任何时候,我们都有一千多名新加坡武装部队军人在美国受训,这比美国的任何盟国都来得多。在反恐方面,两国也有密切的合作 。我们希望美国继续关注亚太,继续维护区域的和平与稳定。这有助于保障整个区域的安全与繁荣。

美国也是我们的重要经济伙伴。美国公司在新加坡的投资数额与规模远远超越其他国家,为国人创造了许多优质的工作机会。在这同时,在创新、科研和开发方面,我们与美国的机构、企业和专家展开了多项合作,从中获益良多。

在新中关系方面,我们两国都同意建立“与时俱进的全方位合作伙伴关系”。这个名称很长,内容也很丰富。我们与中国进行广泛的经济合作,包括政府与政府之间的三个合作项目,除了在苏州和天津,双方也在重庆开展互联互通合作项目。这些都是政府与政府之间高级别的合作项目。此外,中国还是我国最大的出口市场 。新加坡企业在中国的投资相当可观,中国在新加坡的投资也不少 。

新中关系是独特的。除了中国以外,新加坡是世界上唯一一个以华人占多数的国家。这种同文同种的优势,有助于我们延续并加深民间与文化上的交流,帮助两国建立友好的关系,了解彼此并成为合作伙伴。但是,在进行交流与合作时,我们要记得我们还是新加坡人。我们有自己的历史和文化,所以必须有自己的观点和立场。在外交问题上,作为一个华人居多的国家,有时候会使到我们的处境格外困难,因为其他国家很容易误解新加坡的立场。

尤其是当中美之间产生矛盾的时候。如果我们支持中国,美国和其他国家可能会认为我们这么做,是因为在新加坡华人占多数,所以我们对中国有求必应。另一方面,如果我们支持美国,中国不一定会理解。过去,当新加坡与中国在某些课题上,采取不同立场的时候,有一些中国朋友就这样问我们:“既然同文、同宗、同祖、同言、同语,那么你们为什么不同意?”这是一个很微妙的问题,但也是一个很关键的问题,我们必须立场分明,解释清楚。

我们的立场是:我们必须依据原则办事,不能受情感左右。不论对象是谁,无论是在新加坡、北京或华盛顿,我们所表达的观点都是一致的。该同意的时候,我们会同意;不该同意的时候,我们就必须维持并解释我们的立场。我们希望其他国家都清楚明白,新加坡是个多元种族的独立国家,有自己的立场。当然,国人也必须明确了解新加坡的利益和政府的考量。

对新加坡的影响 – 经济

除了影响国际关系,中美之间的紧张局势,也将对全球经济构成负面的影响。这不只会打乱供应链,也会使投资和研发受到限制,以及影响民间的交流。

让我举个例子说明,大家手中的智能手机是由许多零件组成,而这些零件又是在各个不同的国家设计、制造和组装成的。苹果手机是这样,华为手机也是如此。但是,如果美国不允许自己的企业使用中国制造的零件,也不让它们售卖芯片给中国,那中美企业就必须各自制造自己的零件和芯片,研发自己的智能手机,并开发自己的电信系统。这样一来,我们出国时,就必须携带好几部手机,就像几年前,我们去日本时,需要特别准备一部CDMA网路的手机,因为新加坡当时使用的是GSM系统。在这样一个井水不犯河水,两个阵营各做各的世界里,我们仍然希望能够很方便的和所有的朋友沟通与联系。我们也希望能够和所有的国家继续打交道、做朋友。因此,令人最头痛的是,新加坡应该安装哪一种电信系统呢?究竟是美国的,还是中国的?中国肯定会开发自己的电信系统,因为他们不会接受世界上只有一个系统。

新加坡是一个小型和开放的经济体,全球化给我们带来了巨大的好处。如果中美彼此无法建立互信,世界继续分化,那新加坡的经济增长将受到拖累,前景会变得更加暗淡。很多以中国为主要市场的本地公司会受到冲击,而那些在中国设厂、出口货品到美国的新加坡公司也会遭殃。有些人认为,不愿到中国设厂的外国公司会考虑来新加坡投资,但情况并非如此。这些外国公司会选择到成本较低的国家,或者更靠近美国和中国的地方设厂。比如说,制造衣服的公司会将他们的工厂搬到越南或孟加拉,电子厂可能会搬到墨西哥,而制造家具的工厂会搬到菲律宾。这些公司是不会选择来新加坡设厂的。总的来说,中美关系持续恶化,对世界来说不是一个好消息,对新加坡来说也不是一件好事。

中美之间的紧张关系已经打击了全球信心,但是我所谈到的更深、更广的影响,我们还需要一段时间才能感受到。尽管如此,我们必须现在就做好准备,让我国适应这个新的国际格局。

目前经济局势

今年,我们的经济已经显著放缓。这主要是因为国际需求和贸易下降,打击了本地制造业以及与贸易相关的服务。电子业暂时下滑,影响了整体经济表现,尤其是同电子业相关的行业,如精密工程和批发贸易。零售业也继续受到网上购物带来的压力。

幸好,到目前为止,其他领域没有受到冲击,裁员和失业率也保持在低的水平。最近,我和职总秘书长黄志明也和工会领袖讨论了这个问题。他们说,工友虽然很担心自己的饭碗,但是幸好到目前为止,经济放缓还没有显著影响到工友的就业情况。所以,我们目前还不需要推出刺激经济的配套。但是,如果情况恶化,我们当然会及时采取适当的应对措施,保住工友的饭碗。政府和工会领袖一样,正在密切关注经济走势。我们已经做好准备。过去,我们曾经多次面对经济衰退,这一次我们也有信心,能够沉着应对眼前的挑战。

虽然,现在大环境对我们不太有利,但是别忘了,新加坡还是拥有重要的优势。跟其他国家相比,我们的情况好多了。今年,我们吸引了好几个重要的投资项目,其中一个就是芬兰石油公司纳斯特(Neste)。公司投资超过20亿新元在本地扩建工厂,制造再生能源。这是一个庞大的项目,并且为新加坡人创造许多优质的工作机会。纳斯特的总裁解释,他们选择新加坡,是因为我们拥有优越的地理位置和良好的经商环境,以及先进的科技、基础设施和物流系统。更重要的是,我们拥有全世界最好的劳动队伍。公司尤其赞赏新加坡经济发展局的规划与支持,所以纳斯特信任经发局、信任我们的员工、信任新加坡。在这里,让我引述纳斯特的总裁的话,他说:“世界上最宝贵的资源是信用。要赢得别人的信任,我们必须兑现承诺,并付出更大的努力去守护这份信用。我们(也就是纳斯特)在新加坡找到了可以信任的伙伴。”

从这番话,我们可以看出,新加坡在投资者心目中确实享有很高的信誉。经济前景充满变数,我们更要努力维护投资者对我们的信任。

支持企业和工友

在这同时,我们也会不断加强经济的基础,巩固我国的长期竞争力。王瑞杰副总理和多位年轻部长领导的经济转型工作,已经开始看到成效。本地企业在政府的帮助下,纷纷创新求变,利用数码科技改善运作,开拓海外市场和培训员工。

今晚,我想要用大家所喜欢的辣椒螃蟹,来讲一个企业成功转型的故事。其实,好吃的辣椒螃蟹,它背后有很多的功夫,很多的经营哲学。珍宝餐饮集团就是以辣椒螃蟹起家的。他们已经有三十多年的历史,现在是一家上市集团,最近几年还成功打入国际市场。珍宝能取得今天的成就,因为老板和员工都很重视培训。现在,我们先看一段视频。

这是两年前制作的一个节目,里头受访的厨师黄紫扬,多年来和他的师父黄种礼学到很多管理厨房的功夫,也接受其他的培训。紫扬现在已经升职了,成为集团的其中一位执行总厨,掌管更多间餐馆。我很高兴,紫扬现在已经成家,他和太太是在珍宝认识的,现在有两个可爱的孩子。珍宝不但辣椒螃蟹做得好,连员工的终身大事也照顾到。

珍宝对员工的栽培,让公司成功留住许多像种礼和紫扬这样的新加坡籍员工。对于员工流失率很高的餐饮业,这是非常难得的。很多新加坡人不愿意加入餐饮业,觉得工作辛苦、时间又长。但其实,如果餐饮业的工作环境能够改善,员工可以接受培训,公司也给他们发展的机会,那在餐饮业工作也是个不错的选择。

珍宝的老板黄建铭最近也以身作则,去“上课”了。他参加了新加坡企业发展局(Enterprise Singapore, ESG)推出的“企业腾飞计划(Scale-Up SG)”。这是一项新的计划,协助有潜力的本地企业加速扩展,成为他们所在领域的佼佼者。第一批参与计划的25家公司来自各个领域,包括餐饮、教育、医疗、室内设计、家具、维修等。如果把他们聚集起来,就可以为一个市镇提供完善的服务了!在企发局的安排下,黄建铭和其他企业的老板和主管到了美国,参加了一项企业领导课程,获益不浅,也学到了不少真功夫。他们成为了朋友,也擦出了火花,我希望这些火花会点燃更多合作的机会。除了这项计划,政府还有各种计划让大家来学习十八般武艺,欢迎老板和员工来参加。

我谈了珍宝的经验,其实有好几个目的—— 第一,提醒员工参加培训;第二,鼓励公司积极转型、提升业务、展翅腾飞、拓展海外;第三,告诉公司和员工,政府会全力支持你们;第四,为餐饮业打广告,希望更多人考虑加入这个行业;最后,当然也不忘记鼓励年轻人早日成家,结婚生子,孩子是很可爱的,多多益善。所以,珍宝是一个“一箭多雕”、包罗万象的例子,用英语说的话就是个“Jumbo Example”!

总结

今晚,我花了一些时间追溯我国的历史,也和大家分享我对世界局势和经济形势的看法。政府正密切关注国际局势对我国的影响,以及我们经济的走向。世界各国和跨国公司对新加坡的高度信任,是我们的关键优势之一,也是我们宝贵的资产。我们应该小心守护这份信任,一代又一代的传下去。这才能确保新加坡能够持续繁荣,国人的生活长久获得保障。

我很担心,未来的十年会比过去的十年,有更多的未知数,就如变幻莫测的天气一样,一下子艳阳高照,一下子乌云密布。因此,我们必须为将来做好准备,秉持先辈毫无畏惧、力争上游的精神,齐心协力,一同克服困难。我坚信,只要政府和人民团结一致,新加坡人就能够享有更好的生活,新加坡也能够在世界舞台上继续发光发亮。

谢谢!

*******

English translation of Chinese speech

Bicentennial

This year is Singapore’s Bicentennial. 1819 was a turning point in our history. Raffles landed in Singapore that year and established a free port that attracted immigrants from Southeast Asia, India and China who sought their fortunes here. Many Chinese came from Guangdong, Chaoshan and Fujian. Some came from nearer places like Penang, Malacca and the Riau Islands. Many started as labourers. They toiled and strove hard, barely able to make ends meet.

In the end, many settled down and built their lives here. Some started small businesses. The better educated among them took up professions like teaching and journalism. Some built up plantations, set up banks or became traders.

They were our “Founding Generation” and contributed much to Singapore. The leaders among them set up clan associations and trade associations to help their fellow countrymen integrate and establish their businesses. These "towkays" also rallied the Chinese community to build hospitals, schools and temples, to benefit the community.

Our forefathers maintained close links with their motherland. They had arrived in Nanyang as sojourners, intending to return to China one day. They were still people of China, and were passionate about their homeland. Many participated in the political movements in China, and gave their lives in the revolutions and wars there.

Over a hundred years ago, Sun Yat Sen set up the Tongmenghui. Its Southeast Asian headquarters was established in Singapore. The Tongmenghui planned to overthrow the Qing government. Several uprisings were planned at Wan Qing Yuan.

In 1931, when Japan invaded China, the Singapore Chinese were once again roused to arms, joining the anti-Japanese movement. A prominent Chinese community leader, Tan Kah Kee, led the efforts here to raise funds and organise volunteers to support the Chinese in the war. These included the Nanyang Transport Volunteers, who returned to China to fight. This was one reason why the Japanese carried out the Sook Ching Operation after they captured Singapore in 1942, massacring tens of thousands of Chinese people here.

After World War II, the new People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. Carried along by the historical tide, many passionate, idealistic young people in Southeast Asia were deeply inspired by the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and joined local anti-colonial struggles in Southeast Asia. By that time, the identity of the overseas Chinese here had become ambiguous. They were here in Nanyang physically, but for some, their hearts were in China. As a result, their loyalty was questioned, and this engendered distrust of China among Southeast Asian governments.

From the 1950s, China itself started to distinguish between overseas Chinese who were “海外华侨” (Overseas Chinese nationals) and “华人” (ethnic Chinese). “海外华侨” referred to overseas Chinese who retained their Chinese nationality. “华人” were overseas ethnic Chinese who had taken up their host country’s citizenship. Then-Premier Zhou Enlai stated clearly that once “华人” took up citizenship in their country of residence, they can no longer be considered Chinese nationals, and should be loyal to their country of adoption.

Our forefathers had to make a critical life decision: Either they remained in Singapore or returned to the motherland. In the end, the majority chose to remain in Singapore. And together with the other races, they built a multicultural society in an independent, sovereign country.

In the 1960s, as Singapore progressed toward independence, the Chinese community groups here worked with the Government to develop Singapore’s society and economy and build up our national defence. In 1967, to encourage the Chinese community to support the newly implemented National Service, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) presented the first two batches of National Service recruits with medallions. The front of the medallion showed the crescent moon and five starts, and the letters “SCCCI”. The back of the medallion was engraved with the words “National Service” and “尽忠报国” (which means “dedication and loyalty to the country”). This was a limited edition medallion, with high commemorative value. 

In 1968, the government established the National Defence Fund to encourage citizens to contribute to building up our military. The fundraising target was 10 million and SCCCI helped to raise over $1 million for the Fund. This showed that the local Chinese community had by then begun to identify themselves as Singapore citizens, and had transferred their loyalties to Singapore.

Wan Qing Yuan / Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

As we can see, the Chinese Singaporean identity formed gradually over the last 200 years. Our forefathers’ dedication to their motherland is part of our heritage. To commemorate their deeds, we made Wan Qing Yuan a national monument. And installed a sculpture there to commemorate the Nanyang Transport Volunteers too.

Every year, on 15 February, all races attend the ceremony at the Civilian War Memorial to honour those who perished in World War II. Singaporeans of all races lost their lives and suffered during the war. The tragic experience of the Japanese occupation crystalised and inspired our collective national consciousness, and made us determined on self-rule.

Malay and Indian Singaporeans have similar stories to tell about the evolution of their identities here. They too came to Singapore as sojourners. During the period of the anti-colonial struggle, the Indians here were inspired by India’s own struggle for independence, and the Malays by the nationalist movements in Indonesia and Malaya. In fact, our battle cry then — Merdeka! — was originally the slogan of the Indonesian and Malayan independence struggles. But like the Chinese, the local Malays, Indians and Eurasians too progressively sank their roots here, and together, we developed a Singaporean identity. Even today, new immigrants have to undergo this process of gradually identifying themselves as Singaporeans, and becoming Singapore citizens.

Now, as the world enters troubled times, Singapore will face new challenges. Being aware of Singapore’s history over 200 years and more will help us understand how our national consciousness evolved. It will also help our people understand current affairs as well as Singapore’s position on international issues.

US-China Tensions

Of late, there has been great concern over the growing tensions between the US and China. Their disagreement has placed other countries in a dilemma. No one wants to take sides, and Singapore is no exception. This is why tonight I am discussing US and China tensions, and the impact of those tensions on us.

China’s development has been rapid since its reform and opening in the 1980s. It has risen to become the second largest economy in the world. This has significantly benefited both China and the world, in many ways. But China’s growth has also reshaped the world order.

The world’s pre-eminent power today, the United States, has to accommodate an increasingly powerful and influential China. The US must recognise that stopping China’s rise is neither possible nor wise. It also needs to seek constructive bilateral relations with China, including on economic matters.

And as a global power itself, China must put itself in other countries’ shoes, and take into account their interests and views. Only then, can China live in peace and harmony with them. Only then can it be viewed as a magnanimous country, a partner willing to work with others for mutual benefit.

Naturally, competition will exist between the US and China. But at the same time, both parties should also strengthen their mutual trust, and develop appropriate mechanisms to resolve the unavoidable frictions that will arise between them.

Regrettably, both China and the US have yet to find the magic pill to manage their differences. Their tensions will not be resolved in the near term. And this will impact the whole world order.

Implications for Singapore – External Relations

There are two major implications for Singapore. First, externally, especially in our relations with China and the US. Second, internally, in our economy.

On our foreign relations: Singapore is good friends with China, and also with the US, and we want to remain so.

The US is our major security partner. We buy advanced military equipment from them, including fighter aircraft and missiles. Our troops train extensively with US forces. We also cooperate closely on counter-terrorism. We hope the US will continue to remain engaged in the Asia Pacific, and continue to safeguard regional peace and stability. This ensures the security and prosperity of the whole region.

The US is also our important economic partner. The value and scale of US companies’ investments in Singapore far out-strip that of any other country. These investments create many quality jobs for Singaporeans. At the same time, we benefit from collaborations with US institutions, companies and experts on innovations, and research and development.

With China, we have established an All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times. We have extensive economic cooperation with China: including three government-to-government initiatives, in Suzhou, Tianjin, and now in Chongqing. China is also our largest export market. Singapore companies have sizeable investments there, as Chinese companies do in Singapore.

Our relations with China are unique. Apart from China itself, Singapore is the only sovereign country in the world with a majority ethnic Chinese population. Our shared heritage and culture is an advantage that helps us to deepen our people-to-people ties and cultural exchanges. They also help to foster good relations between our two countries, for our respective peoples can understand and partner each other. But even as we engage and cooperate with each other, we should always remember that we are Singaporean. We have our own history and culture, and also our own perspectives and political stands on current affairs. On international affairs, being a Chinese majority country can at times put us in a difficult position, because our words and actions may be easily misunderstood.

Especially when the US and China are at odds. If we support China, the US and other countries may think we do so because we are a majority Chinese country and therefore accede to China. But if we support the US, China may also misunderstand. In fact, on occasions when Singapore and China have held different views in the past, some of our friends from China have asked us: Since we share a common language, a common ancestry and a common heritage, why does Singapore not share a common view?

Our position is as follows: We must always be principled in our approach, and not swayed by emotions. Regardless of who we speak to, whether it is in Singapore itself, Beijing or Washington, our views remain the same. When we can agree with either major power, we will do so. When we cannot, we must maintain and explain our stand. We hope that other countries understand that Singapore is a multicultural, independent and sovereign country, with our own position on issues. And of course, Singaporeans ourselves must fully understand what are our national interests and what are the Government’s considerations in adopting our positions.

Implications for Singapore – Economy

Aside from external relations, US-China tensions will also adversely impact the world economy. Supply chains will be disrupted, investments and R&D will be restricted, people to people exchange will be constrained.

Let me give you an example. The smartphones we use contain many components, which are designed and assembled in many different countries. It is so for Apple phones, and also Huawei phones. However, if the US will not allow its companies to use Chinese components, or allow US companies to sell microchips to China. Then, Chinese and American companies will have to develop their own components, microchips, smartphones, and telecommunications systems. That means, when we go overseas, we may have to carry multiple phones, as we did many years ago when we visited Japan, for it used the CDMA system then while Singapore used the GSM. In such a bifurcated world, we still hope to be able to communicate with all our friends conveniently. So our bigger headache is: which telecommunication system should we install in Singapore?

Singapore is a small open economy that has benefited much from globalisation. If US-China relations continue to deteriorate, the world will continue to bifurcate. Singapore’s economic growth will be affected, and our future will be a more troubled one. Singapore companies that export to China will be impacted. So too will our companies that have factories in China and export to the US. Some may think that companies that decide not to manufacture in China may then come to Singapore, but that is not the case. Such companies are more likely to go to countries with a much lower cost base than we do or that are nearer to major markets. For example, clothing manufacturers will likely move their factories to Vietnam and Bangladesh. Electronics will likely move to Mexico, and the furniture manufacturers will likely move to the Philippines. These industries will not move to Singapore. Overall, should US-China relations continue to deteriorate, it is bad news for Singapore.

US-China tensions are already hurting confidence worldwide. But the deeper and wider effects I spoke about will only be felt after some time. Nevertheless, we must start preparing for them now, for Singapore must adapt to these new international realities.

Current Economic Situation

This year, our economic growth has slowed significantly. This is primarily due to the weakening of global demand and international trade, which has affected our manufacturing sector and trade-related services. A slump in electronics moreover has impacted our overall economic performance. Particularly related sectors such as precision engineering and wholesale trade. Retail continues to be under pressure from online shopping.

Thankfully, other sectors have been less affected, for now. Retrenchment and unemployment rates remain low. Recently, Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng and I discussed these matters with labour union leaders. They reported that while workers are worried, so far the slowdown has not significantly affected jobs. Thus, the current situation does not warrant immediate stimulus measures. But if the situation gets much worse, we will promptly respond with appropriate interventions to sustain the livelihoods of our workers. The government and our union leaders are watching trends closely, and we are prepared. We have experienced cyclical downturns like this in the past, and we are confident we can take this one in our stride.

Though the external environment is not sanguine, we must not forget that we have some important strengths too. This year, we attracted several major investments, including by the Finnish oil company Neste. Neste is investing more than $2 billion to expand its renewable energy plant here. This is a huge project which will create high quality jobs for Singapore. Neste CEO Peter Vanacker chose Singapore because of many factors, among them: Our excellent geography and business environment. Our advanced technology, infrastructure and logistics. And more importantly, our workforce, which is the best in the world. In addition, Neste has high regard for EDB’s planning and support. In sum: Neste trusts EDB, it trusts our workers, and it trusts Singapore.

Let me quote the Neste CEO, who said: The most valuable resource in the world is trust. But to find trust one must first earn it. And to keep trust, one must continue to earn it. And here in Singapore, we have found the right people.

We can take heart from Neste’s commendation. This reflects the excellent reputation Singapore has among investors. Faced with uncertain future economic prospects, we need to work all the harder to protect this trust that investors have in us.

Supporting Businesses and Workers

Meanwhile, we continue to improve our economic fundamentals to secure our longer-term competitiveness. DPM Heng Swee Keat and the younger Ministers are leading our economic transformation efforts. These efforts are beginning to bear fruit. With the help of the government, our companies are innovating, improving their operations, expanding in overseas markets, and developing their employees.

Tonight, I would like to tell you about chilli crabs, to illustrate the successful transformation of one particular company. There is much skill and management philosophy that goes into making delicious chilli crabs. Jumbo Group became known for their chilli crabs. With more than 30 years of history, the Jumbo Group is now a listed company and has also expanded overseas. Jumbo’s success is due to its emphasis on training for both its management team as well as employees. Let’s take a look (video):

This video was produced two years ago. Chef Ng Zi Yang, learnt much about kitchen operations and management from his mentor, Chef Ng Chong Lay, and also received other forms of training. Zi Yang has since been promoted to Executive Chef, and now oversees a cluster of restaurants. I was happy to learn that he met his wife at Jumbo too, and now they have two adorable kids. Jumbo not only serves delicious chilli crabs; it also takes good care of its staff’s well-being.

By emphasising the nurturing and development of its staff, Jumbo has successfully retained Singaporean staff like Chong Lay and Ziyang. This is a signal achievement in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, which usually has a high turnover. Many Singaporeans are reluctant to join the industry, as the work is hard and the hours are long. But actually, as the Jumbo example shows, if working conditions are improved, employees are well trained, and the company provides opportunities for growth and progression, the F&B sector can be a good choice.

In fact, the Jumbo CEO Mr Ang Kiam Meng himself has recently “gone back to school". He joined ESG’s Scale-up SG programme. Scale-up SG is a new programme to help promising local companies grow rapidly and become leaders in their fields. The pioneer batch of 25 companies in Scale-Up were diverse – from the F&B, education, hospital, dental, interior design, furniture, bathroom, and maintenance Sectors. If they came together, they could have provided comprehensive services for an HDB township! Through ESG, Mr Ang and 49 other business leaders recently attended a leadership programme in the US, and learnt a lot. They made friends, shared experiences, and discovered potential opportunities to collaborate. Apart from Scale-Up, there are many other government schemes to support local enterprises and to develop skills. We hope employers as well as employees will take up these opportunities.

There are a few reasons why I talked about Jumbo. To remind workers to go for training, to encourage businesses to keep transforming, improve their operations and globalise, to let our companies and workers know that the government supports you fully, and to give our F&B sector a little puff, so more will consider joining this sector. And of course, to remind our young people to get married early, like Ziyang did, and have kids. Kids are very cute, and the more the merrier!

“An arrow that hits many birds” -– a Jumbo example!

Conclusion

Tonight, I have taken some time to trace our history, and shared my view on the international situation and our economy. The Government is paying close attention to the international situation, and its implications for us and our economy. The high level of trust that other countries and investors have in Singapore, in our word, is our vital advantage, a precious asset. We must safeguard this trust with care, and ensure that it is passed on to subsequent generations. This will ensure that Singapore can continue to prosper, and provide assurance for the livelihoods of Singaporeans.

My concern is that the next ten years will be more uncertain than the last decade. Like the weather that is ever changing: one minute extremely hot and the next minute pouring rain. We must be prepared for this uncertain future. And as our forefathers — who were fearless, driven and united — did, overcome our difficulties together. I firmly believe that if the government and people are united, Singaporeans will have better lives, and Singapore will continue to shine in the world.

Thank you.

UA-9641150-2