For the English translation of the Chinese speech, please scroll down or click here.
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而我们的做法，是提供针对性的援助。其中一项家家户户都能受惠的计划，就是社区发展理事会 （CDC） 的邻里购物券。这个购物券可以帮助大家应付日常开销。大家用购物券，在邻里买东西、吃饭，还能帮助到邻里商家和小贩，可说是一举两得。
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National Day Rally 2022 – Chinese Speech (English Outline)
“Securing Our Future”
Good evening, my fellow Singaporeans. I am happy to see all of you here tonight.
We have been through many up and downs as we battled COVID-19 in the past two years, but we have come through as one united people. We are getting back to our normal lives, and learning to live with the virus. Our people have helped one another, and worked closely with the Government during this period. I thank all of you for your contributions and hard work.
The virus continues to mutate, so please continue to stay vigilant by washing your hands frequently and wearing a mask; self-testing with ART kits if unwell; self-isolating if you test positive; and vaccinating now rather than later.
Those who are 80 years and above, I urge you to get your second booster jab. I also encourage other seniors to take their second booster. I have already done so. A second booster can give us greater protection and reduce risk of severe infection.
Even as we deal with the pandemic, we will also need to brace ourselves for other challenges.
Our external environment has become unstable, and a storm is gathering. The division between the US and China is deepening. The Taiwan issue is just one of the causes. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also impacted the global security landscape. It has created deep hostility between Russia and the other countries, especially with the US and other NATO countries.
All these have profound implications for Singapore. I am worried that there will be greater geopolitical rivalry and tension among the major powers in our region. Will Asia-Pacific experience similar conflicts as what is happening in Europe? We cannot rule out this possibility. Hence, we need to be psychologically prepared, and stay united.
When the war in Ukraine started, Singapore took a strong stand and condemned Russia. Most Singaporeans understood the Government’s position. But some have asked: Why offend Russia? Why side with the US? Why stick our necks out?
Actually, for Singapore, this is not about taking sides. We are not siding with the US, and we are not against Russia. But we have to be firm in our position and defend fundamental principles robustly. We cannot be ambiguous about where we stand. We believe the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, big or small, must be respected. These principles are existential for all nations, but especially so for a small nation like Singapore.
Singapore has consistently opposed the approach of “might is right”. We voted against the US at the UN, when US invaded Grenada in 1983. We also strongly opposed the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978. If we do not stand firm and take a clear stand on the Ukraine crisis, should Singapore be invaded one day, no one will speak up for us.
There was a range of views among various countries when the UN voted on the resolution deploring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Among Asian countries, India abstained. India’s main strategic consideration is its relationship with China. There are serious frictions between them. Therefore, India has sufficient reasons to maintain its friendly relations with Russia. It also buys military equipment from Russia.
China also abstained. China views the war in Ukraine primarily through the lens of its relations with US, which are very troubled. China believes that even if she opposed Russia’s actions, US will not be grateful and reciprocate. Some Chinese commentators even feel the US will re-focus its efforts on China and lock horns with it, after the US has dealt with Russia. After all, some Americans have framed the Ukraine crisis as a war between democracy and autocracy. As a result, China is even more unwilling to compromise its ‘limitless’ strategic relationship with Russia
Within ASEAN, Vietnam and Laos abstained in the vote. They have had close relations with Russia since the Soviet era. While the remaining ASEAN members voted for the resolution, they did not name Russia in their statements. This is understandable because none of them is the smallest nation in ASEAN, and do not feel as vulnerable as we do.
Singapore is the smallest nation in ASEAN, and our interests and considerations are naturally different from the others. This is why we have not only explicitly condemned Russia’s invasion, but also went further to impose our own targeted sanctions on Russia.
I have explained how different countries have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so that you have a better understanding of our different interests and positions.
Nowadays on social media -- for example, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, WeChat -- you get all sorts of information. We may think that all the information is true and credible. However, some of these messages have an ulterior aim of persuading you to take sides, or even to erode your trust in the Government.
For example, on the war in Ukraine, you may receive some messages on your mobile, that are clearly attempting to stir up strong anti-American sentiments. The messages are in Mandarin and English. On the other hand, other messages aim to discredit Russia and China, and seek to influence and persuade you to side with the West.
Therefore, we must be vigilant when we read these messages. We need to ask ourselves: where do these messages come from, and what are their intentions? And are we sure we should share such messages with our friends?
So please check the facts and do not accept all the information as truths. We must actively guard against hostile foreign influence operations, regardless of where they originate. Only then, can we safeguard the sovereignty and independence of our nation.
I am heartened that most Singaporeans support the government’s position on the war in Ukraine, including Chinese Singaporeans who are active on Chinese-language social media.
Our Chinese community is clear about our national interests, because we have developed a deeper sense of national identity and greater confidence in our culture.
Our cultural community has a strong sense of local identity. Our local artists have been embedding a local flavour in their creative works, which reflect their love for our country.
For example, since its establishment 5 years ago, the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) has been actively promoting traditional Chinese culture through various activities, showcasing Singapore’s unique cultural landscape. Recently, SCCC presented a musical, inspired by the traditional Chinese myth of Chang’e. By blending the traditional and modern elements, this musical has incorporated many local elements such as Xinyao, our local languages and nostalgia for our past.
Our talented Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) has also come up with many performances enriched with our unique “Nanyang”style. SCO members comprise of locals, as well as new immigrants who have lived in Singapore for many decades and are well-integrated here. During the COVID-19 pandemic, SCO performed a local composition, titled “Confluence”, virtually. The performance showed our strong sense of unity and resilience in times of crises. Let us listen to an excerpt.
In recent years, research has been conducted by many individuals and groups on the local Chinese language, arts and clan associations, reflecting our pride in the achievements of our local culture. One example is the development of the Singaporean Mandarin Database by the Promote Mandarin Council, a collection of unique local Mandarin terms, many of which are not used in the same way in other Chinese societies.
For instance, when describing a young couple being in love, we say “pai tuo”; we say “chi feng” for going on a holiday overseas; “hao cai” when we feel fortunate; and “tou jia” when we refer to our boss.
If you hear someone say, I want to paktor with my girlfriend, go overseas for a holiday, luckily my boss approved." You will immediately know he is one of us.
SCCC also plans to set up a dedicated research unit this year to conduct systematic research on the evolution of Singapore Chinese culture. The Government is supportive of this move.
Chinese Singaporeans have sunk their roots here in Singapore, and have our own unique stories to tell. Let’s tell our stories well.
Next, I would like to talk about the cost of living, which is top of everyone’s minds. Many are worried about the rising cost of living and if they can afford things. We understand your anxiety. Therefore, the Government has taken steps and is doing everything necessary to help Singaporeans.
We are focusing our efforts to help those who are in most need. One scheme that benefits all families, is the Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers. The CDC vouchers help Singaporeans defray some of your daily expenses. As you use the vouchers to shop and eat in the neighbourhood, you are also supporting our heartland shops and hawkers. This is a win-win situation.
I am glad to see many welcome the CDC vouchers. To date, over 18,000 heartland merchants, hawkers and coffeeshop stalls have joined the CDC voucher scheme. Most households have utilised their CDC vouchers, with close to $180 million spent so far. This is quite a sizeable amount.
The CDC voucher scheme is an example of how we can utilise our resources in a focused and effective way to ease our people’s burdens.
We have been giving various forms of support to our people progressively since the start of this financial year in April. Let me cite an example: This is a low-income family living in a three-room HDB flat, a married couple with two children in the household.
In the coming months, this family will be receiving various forms of support almost every month. In May, we distributed the CDC vouchers that I just mentioned. There will be more CDC vouchers in January next year. This month, they will receive cash payouts of $1400. In October, they will receive about $190 in U-save and S&CC rebates. And in February next year, they will receive $300 of top up in their MediSave accounts. In total, they will be receiving up to $3700 worth of support over 12 months.
Rest assured, everyone will receive some support. But the amount each family receives will depend on its income level and housing type. After March next year, the Government will continue to provide Singaporeans with support through the Assurance Package, to offset the increase in GST.
Meanwhile, the Government will continue to monitor the situation. If necessary, we will definitely provide more support for Singaporeans.
Beyond these support packages, some have asked: Why not just postpone, or even scrap the GST increase? I understand these sentiments. Not raising the GST would be a politically expedient move. However, it would be irresponsible.
This is because our population is ageing rapidly. Now, 1 in 6 Singaporeans are aged 65 and above. By 2030, this number will increase to 1 in 4. Mature estates will see a greying population earlier.
For instance, in Teck Ghee, my constituency, we already have 1 in 4 residents aged 65 years and above. In the 1980s, when I was first elected as an MP, I was a young parent, and many of my Teck Ghee residents were young married couples. In the blink of an eye, we have all become old. Indeed, the years have gone by quickly.
I meet residents during events. I have observed that there are more and more who need walking sticks and wheelchairs. While I am happy that they continue attending community activities, I am also worried for them, as their healthcare needs will definitely increase over the years.
Therefore, we must be prepared to take better care of the elderly. For example, we need to provide more medication subsidies to reduce the burden of healthcare costs for older Singaporeans and their families. We must also build more hospitals, polyclinics and other facilities so that they can access medical services.
Hence, our healthcare and social spending is increasing sharply. While the people worry about not having enough money to spend, the Government also worries about not having enough money. We are concerned about not having enough resources to take care of low-income families and the healthcare needs of our elderly.
We were able to cope better than others with the pandemic because we have always managed our finances prudently and had sufficient reserves to help ease part of our people’s burdens. We should continue to save for a rainy day, and plan for the future.
The pandemic has been very challenging for the world over the past two years. Many countries were greatly impacted. Their economies became sluggish, their politics polarised and their societies have become deeply divided.
Even though it has not been easy for all of us, we have fared much better. We did not panic; we were not discouraged; we did not flinch.
In fact, we faced the challenges calmly and fought this battle in solidarity. We knew that only by working hand-in-hand could we deal with this crisis and emerge stronger from it. Our society is now even more cohesive and resilient after going through this test of our mettle.
This has given us greater courage and conviction to face future crises. Whether it be economic challenges, fault lines in our own society or national security challenges. I believe we can overcome them.
At the National Day Parade, I could feel the deep sense of solidarity amongst our people. Everyone has worked so hard, and sacrificed so much. I was deeply moved.
If we stay united in good times as well as bad, our little red dot will be able to continue to enjoy peace and prosperity, for generations to come.