Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Lianhe Zaobao's Centennial Gala Dinner on 29 September 2023.
For the English translation, click here.
Chairman, Mr Khaw Boon Wan
Chief Executive Officer, Ms Teo Lay Lim
Editor-in-Chief of Chinese Media Group, Ms Lee Huay Leng
Editors and staff of Lianhe Zaobao
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening! I wish everyone a very happy Mid-Autumn Festival! I am happy to join you to celebrate Lianhe Zaobao’s 100th anniversary.
This is a milestone in the history of Singapore’s Chinese journalism. Congratulations Lianhe Zaobao on your 100th birthday. May you continue to thrive and scale even greater heights!
100 years of Zaobao
Over the past 100 years, Zaobao has been constantly innovating and reinventing itself, in order to stay relevant.
Zaobao’s roots can be traced back to Nanyang Siang Pau, founded by Mr Tan Kah Kee in 1923, and Sin Chew Jit Poh, founded by Mr Aw Boon Haw in 1929.
The two Chinese community leaders set up their papers to keep the overseas Chinese here informed of developments back in China, to educate the masses, as well as for their own business considerations.
Since then, these two papers have developed along with Singapore, chronicling our key historical events.
For instance, when Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, the Singapore editions of Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh also parted ways with their Malaysian counterparts. As Singaporean media, the two local Chinese newspapers then went on to fulfil their roles in strengthening the Singaporean identity.
In 1983, both papers merged to form the Lianhe Zaobao that we know today.
For generations of Singaporeans, Zaobao is a repository of our shared memories.
Today, Zaobao is not just a news outlet serving readers in Singapore, but is also a voice for Singapore’s Chinese community to the outside world.
Let me highlight three key aspects of Zaobao that makes it an authoritative Chinese media outlet not just in Singapore, but also in Asia:
Relevant and objective reporting
First, Zaobao has been a beacon of journalistic integrity, it reports with attention to detail and is committed to truth and accuracy.
This has built trust amongst Zaobao readers, allowing Zaobao to become an integral part of their lives.
Many people, including myself, read Zaobao every day.
Particularly in today’s digital age, it is Zaobao’s professional and quality reporting as well as its insightful analyses that continue to draw readers, despite competition from other new media.
Singaporeans’ trust in Zaobao also served us well during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Zaobao kept readers informed of the latest and most accurate news, helping to fight the spread of “fake news” online.
Preserving our culture and serving society
Second, as the main Chinese paper in Singapore, Zaobao continues to play an important role in strengthening social cohesion and our Singaporean identity.
This requires a keen sense of awareness and perception from Zaobao’s editorial staff, as they help Singaporeans dissect and make better sense of complex issues, as well as domestic policies or external developments that may affect them.
This helps to build national consensus, which is critical in keeping our society united, especially amidst a more fractured information landscape.
Zaobao also plays an integral role in enriching our diverse cultural heritage and promoting our unique Singaporean Chinese culture, by organising various educational and cultural activities.
For instance, Zaobao has organised events such as the “Capturing A Century: A Visual Journey” exhibition (定格百年摄影展), showcasing our shared memories of Singapore through photographs.
To promote cultural exchange and add vibrancy to the local cultural and literary landscape, Zaobao also regularly invites overseas writers to Singapore. Such events are also an opportunity to showcase Singaporean culture to the world.
A unique Singaporean perspective on world issues
The third important factor, one of its most valuable attributes, is the unique Singaporean perspective which Zaobao provides on global issues, and its role as a platform for diverse and rational viewpoints.
For instance, when covering news on Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Zaobao offers its own independent analyses, and interprets these developments from Singapore’s perspective.
On top of the Singaporean point of view, Zaobao also publishes a wide range of perspectives from all over the world, including China and US, so that both local and foreign readers have more comprehensive information with which to analyse current affairs.
This is what sets Zaobao apart from other Chinese papers around the world, and also gives it its unique value.
In today’s international environment, where countries are not just trying to influence each other’s people, but also attempting to sway them through their media. They do this via various means, to convince others to be on their side. This is understandable but we must resist it.
To counter such influences, it is critical for Zaobao to maintain a clear editorial stance and have sufficient independent content, so that it can continue to speak for Singapore and safeguard our interests.
Zaobao must not be used by others to put out views that are detrimental to Singapore’s interests or are not aligned with our national sentiment.
When publishing articles or commentaries by foreign contributors, Zaobao should also ensure that its readers are aware who these writers are speaking for and recognise that these views do not represent Zaobao’s stance.
Otherwise, readers may question if Zaobao has lost its independence or is choosing sides.
But in a world where geopolitical tensions are rising, many media outlets, including Zaobao, are inevitably caught in the fray and accused of taking sides.
Some say that Zaobao supports China’s position.
While others say that Zaobao leans towards the United States.
As a responsible Singaporean paper, Zaobao must do all it can to avoid being influenced by others, and to uphold its credibility.
I am heartened that Zaobao has been unwavering in its principles, and has remained independent and objective in its news reporting. That is the reason for its good reputation and standing.
A future-ready Zaobao that constantly reinvents itself
Apart from international challenges, the other challenge that ZB has to deal with is the rapid development of digital technology which has disrupted the media ecosystem and revolutionised/transformed how people obtain information.
This is not something that just affects Zaobao.
But a trend that almost every print media faces.
Even those who read the newspaper daily may not necessarily read it in print.
Older readers have switched to e-papers.
Our seniors realise that the times are different and to keep up, they have to keep learning, and acquire new skills.
I am heartened by Zaobao and Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s “Youths Help Seniors Go Digital” initiative, where students guide seniors one-on-one to access digital news services and acquire other useful digital skills and knowledge.
With encouragement and companionship from their young friends, seniors have found it easier and are more confident to learn new technology.
Many of us now find it difficult to live without digital technology.
This is even more true for the younger generation who are digital natives.
They do not rely on a single newspaper or media outlet to learn about world affairs. Rather, they are more likely to get the information they need from social media.
Zaobao faces the tough challenge of setting itself apart in the crowded and competitive online world.
Zaobao has made forays in these areas and achieved admirable results.
For instance, Zaobao recently interviewed Singaporeans about their retirement plans and the Majulah Package. They produced a video that captured the candid reactions of Singaporeans.
To date, the video has garnered more than 60,000 views on YouTube and 220,000 views on Zaobao’s Facebook page.
Besides videos on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, Zaobao also produces a slew of other digital content, including its own podcasts and livestreams of news programmes.
These examples show that Zaobao is well-attuned to current trends and well aware of the need to keep innovating and develop itself into an all-rounded multimedia news platform, in order to retain its audience.
It is good that Zaobao has been able to push the envelope and surpass itself, but no one knows how the media landscape or media consumption habits will change in the next decade and beyond.
As Ms Lee Huay Leng puts it, newspapers are approaching the end of the print era. Ten years later, the ink-stained fingers that come from flipping the pages of a newspaper might just be a memory for the older generation.
Yet, no matter how the format of news changes, what remains is the need for high quality and objective news coverage, trusted and influential journalists, and a Chinese media that continues to unite and inspire generations of Singaporeans.
I am confident that Zaobao will continue to fulfil its social and historical mission as it strives to keep up with technological changes and the times.
The Government is providing support to SPH Media Trust because we see the importance of having high-quality, authoritative and influential mainstream media.
Henceforth, Government will continue to support Zaobao, so that Singaporeans can continue to trust it as source of news and information and stay relevant to their lives.
Zaobao’s people as its key asset
As we celebrate this centenary, it is also important that we recognise the hard work and talent of Zaobao’s people, which has helped Zaobao get to where it is today.
Editors and journalists are the heart of Zaobao.
You are the ones who provide quality journalism to readers.
You are also committed to the truth and dedicated to excellence.
Today, I am happy to see many veteran editors and journalists who are here to celebrate this joyous occasion. Zaobao would not be what it is today, without the strong foundation you built. Thank you!
As the saying goes, “one generation sows and the next reaps” (前人种树，后人乘凉). For the past hundred years, generations of Zaobao editors and journalists have laid down a solid foundation with their dedication and efforts, so that Zaobao can grow strong and reach lofty heights.
I believe that the new generation of Zaobao editors and reporters are not content to just enjoy the fruits of past labour, but also want to sow the seeds for the next generation, so that Zaobao can continue to flourish and thrive for many years to come.
In commemorating Zaobao's 100th anniversary, we not only celebrate a century of excellence in journalism, but also reaffirm Zaobao’s continued role in nation-building and shaping an informed and united citizenry.
I wish Zaobao continued success, and may Zaobao's second century continue to be illustrious, your impact even more profound, and your contributions even more enduring.
A very happy Mid-Autumn Festival to everyone once again.
Explore recent content
Explore related topics