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.
For the English translation, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
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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。
对新加坡的影响 – 外交
对新加坡的影响 – 经济
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”！
English translation of Chinese speech
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 stars, 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.
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.
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!
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.