Friday, September 22, 2017

Lim Siong Guan’s lecture on the Rise and Fall of Empires sounds like a complaint about today’s youth

[A cheeky poke at Lim Siong Guan's lecture.]

What can a British general teach us about Singapore's future?

By Sulaiman Daud

September 14, 2017


Born in 1897, Lt. General Sir John Bagot Glubb is most famous for serving as the commanding officer of the Arab Legion – another name for the army of the Kingdom of Jordan in the 1940s. Having fought in World War 1, he also saw action in World War 2 and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Aside from commanding armies, Glubb also dabbled in writing. One of his essays, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival, caught the eye of former top civil servant Lim Siong Guan.

Lim is best known for serving as the former head of the Civil Service, and Group President of the GIC.

Lim chose to speak about the lessons one could learn from that essay for a Singaporean context, during a lecture he gave at the Institute of Policy Studies’ Nathan Lecture, quoting Glubb’s analysis on the seven stages of the rise and fall of great nations, which we summarised below:

Our dangerous, idiotic national conversation

Opinions

By George F. Will
Opinion writer

September 20, 2017

At this shank end of a summer that a calmer America someday will remember with embarrassment, you must remember this: In the population of 325 million, a small sliver crouches on the wilder shores of politics, another sliver lives in the dark forest of mental disorder, and there is a substantial overlap between these slivers. At most moments, 312 million are not listening to excitable broadcasters making mountains of significance out of molehills of political effluvia.

Still, after a season of dangerous talk about responding to idiotic talk by abridging First Amendment protections, Americans should consider how, if at all, to respond to “cheap speech.” That phrase was coined 22 years ago by Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School. Writing in the Yale Law Journal (“Cheap Speech and What It Will Do”) at the dawn of the Internet, he said that new information technologies were about to “dramatically reduce the costs of distributing speech,” and that this would produce a “much more democratic and diverse” social environment. Power would drain from “intermediaries” (publishers, book and music store owners, etc.) but this might take a toll on “social and cultural cohesion.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

Growing old, but no letting go of healthier pursuits

Toh Ee Ming AND
Valerie Koh

September 9, 2017

SINGAPORE — Retiring from her high-powered job as a senior vice-president at Citibank after more than 20 years in the sector, Madam Betty Teo suddenly found herself at standstill.

There was no email to clear, no problem to solve, no report to submit, no performance target to hit, she said. Gone, too, was time spent socialising with colleagues over lunch.

“Every morning, I saw the women in their heels, dressed nicely, taking the train to work, and I started to envy them… I felt (like I had lost) my identity,” the 58-year-old said.

Her husband, a civil servant, still works, so in the first six months of her retirement in 2011, she tried to keep herself engaged by taking up cooking and baking classes, or exercising at community centres, but there was “no real sense of belonging”.

A chance meeting with a member from the Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (Wings) one day led her to sign up for various courses at the non-profit organisation. It was only then that she started to pay heed to the things she used to neglect while working: Eating “mindfully”, learning to build positive relationships, and to enjoy time to herself.

This was very different from the past — when everything was done in a rush, from scarfing down lunches at the office desk to exercising at the gym, and when all she had were “work goals”, never personal ones. It was “just work and family”, with barely enough time for rest, let alone pursue hobbies, she said.

“I had many achievements in my career, but there was no meaning.”

Friday, September 8, 2017

North Korea’s nuclear arsenal threatens China’s path to power

Jane Perlez

September 6, 2017

BEIJING — The two men stood together on the reviewing stand in the North Korean capital: a top official in China’s communist leadership wearing a tailored business suit and a young dictator in a blue jacket buttoned to his chin.

Mr Liu Yunshan, the visiting Chinese dignitary, and Mr Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, tried to put on a show of friendship, chatting amiably as the cameras rolled, but just as often they stood silent, staring ahead as a military parade passed before them.

Nearly two years have elapsed since that encounter, the last high-level visit between China and North Korea. The stretch of time is a sign of the distance between two nations with a torturous history: one a rising power seeking regional dominance, the other an unpredictable neighbor with its own ambitions.

China has made little secret of its long-term goal to replace the United States as the major power in Asia and assume what it considers its rightful position at the center of the fastest-growing, most dynamic region in the world.

But North Korea, which defied Beijing by testing a sixth nuclear bomb on Sunday (Sept 3), has emerged as an unexpected and persistent obstacle.

News commentary: US accepts offer of RSAF helicopters for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief

My main reaction when SG offered help to the US, and the US accepted that help was... the US would accept help from a little red dot? That's... humility? Self-assuredness? Confidence?

Then a question: Would a rising Great Power with aspirations to Super Power status act in the same way?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

China questions its morals over bad bike-sharing behaviour

September 4, 2017

BEIJING — Mr Liu Lijing, a mechanic in Beijing, does not usually pay much attention to manners. He does not mind when people blast loud music, and he strolls the alleyways near his home in a top stained with grease. But when a stranger recently ditched a bicycle in the bushes outside his door, Mr Liu was irate.

Start-ups have flooded the city with shared bikes, he complained, and people have been leaving them all over the place without thinking about other residents. “There’s no sense of decency anymore,” he muttered, picking up the discarded bike and heaving it into the air in anger. “We treat each other like enemies.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cost, political considerations underpin growing Chinese weapon sales to South-east Asia

Ho Wan Beng Ben

September 2, 2017

TODAYONLINE

SINGAPORE — Chinese arms deals with South-east Asian nations have been making the headlines recently.

Last month, it was reported that China had offered Malaysia rocket launchers and a radar system – a claim which Putrajaya subsequently denied. This came after Malaysia purchased four Littoral Mission Ships from China last year – the first major defence contract inked between the two nations.

And earlier this year, Thailand confirmed that it had bought three made-in-China submarines after having not operated such a platform since the 1950s.

These are just some of the deals that South-east Asian countries have concluded with Chinese defence companies in recent years, and experts say that political, rather than actual military necessity, are largely behind these deals.

Defence analyst Bernard Loo told TODAY that the need to keep up with the Jones, or in other words, prestige, would be one key consideration behind the recent transfer of Chinese arms to South-east Asia. He said their relatively lower cost make them attractive to potential buyers.

“Chinese weapon systems are cheap and yet look good,” said Associate Professor Loo, who is with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).