Singapore must also be an attractive choice

Mr Toh Cheng Seong's letter (China's Belt and Road merely one choice out of many; June 2) reminds me of many singles I know.

"I want to choose an attractive partner," they all say, but fail to make themselves attractive. You see, all the available "partners" are also making choices.

Of course, China's Belt and Road is merely one choice of many.

But Singapore is also one country out of many which can be easily left out of the project.

Not all roads lead to Beijing, but most main roads do, and other roads may lead to destinations that are much less attractive.

So, we choose; it is our sovereign right to do so. But we are also either being chosen or rejected. It is also our sovereign right to make silly choices.

We claim to be a neutral city-state. But in reality, only superpowers can afford to be strictly neutral. All superpowers have foreign policies that declare or imply: "He who is not with me is against me."

Mr Toh can look at world history and see how many city-states have come and gone. That Singapore can survive to this day is a miracle.

Maintaining this miracle demands a penetrating depth of foresight and superb skills of manoeuvre from our policymakers.

We must remember that a big fish in a small pond is still smaller than most small fishes in the ocean.

Let us not believe there is such a thing as selfless friendship in international politics.

There is no good reason for other countries to be interested in our survival unless we can contribute significantly to their prosperity. It is not enough that we make ourselves important.

We have to make ourselves indispensable.

It is imperative that we, as a mere little red dot, have the maximum number of "friends", especially powerful friends, and a minimum number of enemies, especially powerful enemies. We would only do ourselves harm if we choose to disregard all this.

The most important knowledge is the knowledge of oneself . The worst ignorance is the indulgence of self-intoxication.

Ee Teck Ee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore must also be an attractive choice'. Print Edition | Subscribe