"We wish to have another Lee Kuan Yew but this is impossible. Many countries have to wait for generations before they see a Lee Kuan Yew, we are already very lucky."
These were remarks made by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a recent live television show, Ask the Prime Minister.
In the hour-long programme, he also talked about Singapore welcoming its 50th year of nationhood in two years' time. He said that 50 years in a country's history is not considered long but the 50 years of Singapore's foundation as a nation had profound effects. Singapore's commercial vibrancy and political image as transparent, clean and efficient, as well as its unique foreign policy philosophy, has been examined by scholars from many countries.
Some praise Singapore as enjoying influence far beyond their own countries'; others are unhappy that Singapore holds an ambivalent attitude towards Japan despite being invaded by imperialist Japan in the past. Others say that Singapore's philosophy of practicality has led it to "chase" China economically but "softly balance" China militarily and politically. But to Singapore, which once boasted that it was a "poisonous shrimp", the most pragmatic strategy was to co-exist with the big fish in the international arena.
As a tropical city-state, Singapore lacks geographical strategic depth and natural resources. Despite all this, Singapore highly values its independence and autonomy as a country, and takes great pains to avoid becoming a satellite state of any big country.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew once defined Singapore's international strategy as such: a poisonous shrimp. A shrimp might be small but its poison could pose a threat to the big fish in international oceans, and so it will not be eaten by the big fish and can co-exist with them.
Since its founding, Singapore has gradually formulated a "balancing strategy". Singapore's geopolitical vulnerability has a lasting effect on its foreign policy.
Of its 5.4 million population, about 75 per cent are of Chinese ethnicity, and Chinese is one of the four official languages. Despite its cultural "affinity" (with China), Singapore established diplomatic relations with China only on Oct 3, 1990 in order to avoid suspicions from neighbouring countries.
Singapore achieved independence in August 1965. When it first gained independence, Singapore was faced with a severe and complex regional and international environment. Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries at the time adopted an anti-China policy, and some viewed Singapore as the Trojan horse of China in South-east Asia. Therefore, Singapore began to comprehensively deepen its relations with China only after Indonesia restored diplomatic relations with China in February 1989.