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S’pore culture unlikely to emerge: MM Lee July 12, 2006

Posted by kentneo in General.
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By Peh Shing Huei
A SINGAPORE culture is unlikely to emerge – not even in the next few hundred years, predicted Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew yesterday.

Instead, the more likely outcome will be an ‘amalgam’ of different influences as a result of the digital age.

Giving his views before more than 400 Asian business and political leaders at the Forbes Global CEO Conference, he said that modern technology made it difficult to create a unique identity.

‘In the old days, meaning before this digital age, you had the time and the isolation to develop on your own and create something distinctive,’ he said.

‘Now you have to synthesise all the time. And out of the synthesis, make something which is relevant to yourself and your future.’

The influences and interactions are constant and via all fronts, whether it is watching television or books or online.

‘We try in a pragmatic way to take in what we must take in to survive as a people, which means we’ve got to keep abreast with the changes in technology, the changes in lifestyles which technology brings with it, and at the same time accommodate the different races, religions and cultures that comprise Singapore society,’ he said.

Hence, the Singaporean is not a homogeneous product. Neither does Singapore have the confidence to create its own culture.

‘The basis of our culture is what we inherited from our original countries, our original cultures,’ he said.

‘So every Chinese Singaporean takes that as his heritage. It doesn’t belong to China, it belongs as much to you as to me,’ he added in reply to a mainland Chinese, who asked him for advice on how China could retain its traditional values despite the onslaught of modernity and development.

Mr Lee said he was in ‘no position to give any advice’, but cited the Japanese experience, which the Chinese could take a leaf from.

With the same Confucian values as the Chinese, the Japanese ‘transformed, modified, and loyalty to king and country and family became loyalty to company and family and all companies.

‘So you have to tweak the system,’ he said.

During the event, held at the Shangri-La Hotel, he fielded questions on a wide-range of issues, from Taiwan Straits relations to terrorism.

Asked by Forbes president Steve Forbes for his view on the war on terror and the performance of the Bush administration, Mr Lee replied that he and the Government were supporters of President George W. Bush.

‘I think the next President will face the same set of difficult problems which cannot be wished away,’ he said.

He expressed optimism that if the non-Muslim world did not push moderate Muslims into a defensive mode, the radicals will lose eventually.

He was also asked what advice he would give the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping if he met him in his dream.

Mr Lee replied that he would not have the ‘audacity’ to give advice. He noted, however, a Chinese habit – despite its repeated statements to Asean, especially Singapore, that all countries big and small are equal, ‘every time they are displeased with us, they tell us, ‘One thousand three hundred million Chinese are very angry’,’ he said to laughter.

‘Now, if all countries are equal, then four million Singaporeans are equal to one thousand three hundred million Chinese. Does it make any difference whether it’s four million have offended one thousand three hundred?

‘Well, obviously it does. So in subtle ways we’re reminded all countries big and small must remember that they are big and small.’

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