SINGAPORE - If Singapore is not economically successful, no major powers will invite it to the global table for discussions. This is why the country is always diversifying its portfolio, exploring opportunities with countries like the United States, China, India and others, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said on Saturday (Aug 12) night.
It is also important for the country to be united, he added. For if Singapore is not socially cohesive, others will take the nation apart, and there is no shortage of people who want to exert their influence on different segments of the population, added Mr Chan, who is also labour chief.
In a wide-ranging speech at a National Day Dinner at Tiong Bahru Community Centre in Tanjong Pagar GRC, Mr Chan called on Singaporeans to be vigilant as he laid out key domestic necessities to "navigate the new forces of significant shifts in global geopolitics".
"We need to have a clear-eyed view of where our interests are and what cards we have on our side," he said
"It is not helpful to start any conversation on foreign relations (by asking) if we should be on the side of country A or B. We are not vassal states of some bigger countries and we must never allow ourselves to be so," he added.
Mr Chan outlined three main areas of focus for Singapore to manage foreign relations well: staying relevant and contributing globally, economic success and social cohesion.
Singapore can expect neither charity nor sympathy if it is not relevant nor useful, said Mr Chan.
This thinking underlies Singapore's economic policies as well, as it has to stay relevant in the global economy so that it does not get swallowed up by bigger economies.
"If we are not on the table, we will be on the menu," said Mr Chan.
This is why Singapore has trade agreements with as many countries as possible, in order to diversify its portfolio.
Mr Chan also flagged the "backhanded compliment" that people outside of Singapore would want to influence Singapore's foreign policy positions.
This makes it all the more vital to stay socially cohesive despite attempts by others to influence Singapore, he said.
"We can take it as a working assumption that there will be people from outside who will try to exert their influence on us through diplomatic, informational, military and economic channels.
"No matter what the content, what channels of influence may be attempted on us, we remember that in everything that we do, we start from the premise that it must be for the good of Singapore's long-term interest. And it is our poeple who will decide our future, and not anyone else," he said.
Mr Chan did not mention the case, but his speech comes after a well-known academic from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) had his permanent residency cancelled on August 4 and was ordered to leave Singapore for working with a foreign government to influence Singapore's foreign policy and public opinion.
The Ministry of Home Affairs did not name the country, but said Dr Huang Jing, a China-born United States citizen, had engaged prominent and influential Singaporeans and offered what he claimed was "privileged information" to influence their opinions in favour of that country - but the Government declined to act on the information.