Developing a Singapore version of ethnic culture is a strength

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech on Singapore developing "its own variation of Chinese culture and an identity that resonates with Chinese Singaporeans as well as Singaporeans of other races" is encouraging (PM Lee: S'pore has developed own version of Chinese culture; Sept 7).

It acknowledges that a cultural system should not be rigid, or it will be more difficult to bring about changes. Non-rigidity makes it easier for people to adapt to changing needs.

The Singapore cultural environment is unusually broad and this gives us our cosmopolitan character and makes us of more value to the world. Thus, many Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Europeans find Singapore to be their favourite city in Asia.

But this broad make-up also creates angst about racial integration and the lack of a national identity.

These tensions cannot be wished away. We must manage them well. So far, we have done so and Singapore, therefore, plays a key role in the region and the world disproportionate to its size.

It will be helpful to Singapore's development if "developing our own versions" becomes our catchphrase in many other areas too, including economic and political.

Indeed, it should become part of the Singapore culture.

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2018, with the headline 'Developing a Singapore version of ethnic culture is a strength'. Print Edition | Subscribe