chapter  11
21 Pages

Singapore and China: the Lion City engages the emerging dragon

Singapore’s foreign policy outlook is often cast as fundamentally Hobbesian, i.e. the international system is a hostile environment and states must compete for power in order to survive.1 The rhetoric of the city-state’s foreign policy is peppered with references to balance of power politics, security threats and military deterrence. It is perhaps unsurprising that Singapore’s foreign policy is undergirded by the Realist paradigm, given the unpropitious circumstances of the country’s birth: expelled from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, the viability of the tiny geographical entity with its ethnically mixed population was seriously in doubt due to turbulent relations with neighbouring countries, and the city-state’s dearth of natural resources and limited military capabilities. Singapore’s first few decades of independent statehood is usually couched by the country’s ruling elite as a struggle to survive, and the psychological legacy persists: ‘We assume that the world is a dangerous place,’ asserted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2005 ‘and do our best to make it less dangerous for ourselves.’2