the many faces of TAN WEE CHENG

TWC - the Political Observer

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Visit Political Digest: TWC's Geopolitical Views & Collection of Articles

Any traveller finds it hard to disengage from politics.  Real travellers sought to understand the current state of affairs of the countries they visit and they inevitably end up with certain views, whether biased or not.  I agonize on whether to include this page but what the heck, so what if somebody disagrees with them.  Here's a summary of my views - which may or may not be misleading - if you try reading between the lines which I'm sure you would, you are most likely to misunderstand me - but what the heck!

1) I am against any form of Discrimination, be it based on racial, religious, gender or sexual orientation - Racism is one of the greatest evils of civilization. I have long grown up in a multiracial society and dislike any form of racism.  However, as an ethnic majority in Singapore, I don't feel any discrimination.  It's only when I arrived in the UK that I become very sensitive to even the slightest indication of discrimination.  I also begin to appreciate the concerns felt by ethnic minorities in Singapore and elsewhere.  The British are generally nice people but exceptions do exist.  I have also come to realized that the picture in Singapore isn't totally clear either.  Having lived abroad, I am appalled that people need to fill up their race or religion to apply for jobs in Singapore.  Racism is inherently BAD and we should be conscious about it whenever possible.

A side-note: Given the current crisis on terrorism, there is a lot of misunderstanding and misconception of Islam.  Islam is a terribly misunderstood religion.  In my travels to many Islamic countries, I have experienced nothing but overwhelming hospitality.  The issues relating to Islam today are complex, ranging from the failure of Muslim leaders to adopt progressive political systems and the hijack of the public agenda by extremists, to the failure of the great powers in bringing a just and peaceful settlement to the problems of Palestinian self-determination.  Unfortunately, too many people simply generalize issues and sought to portray Islam in a negative manner, thus rendering resolution of conflicts difficult.

2) I believe in Democracy but NOT unconditional embrace of democracy.  Democracy is great because it empowers the ordinary man to exercise his natural rights.  However, I also believe that poor and less educated masses can easily be exploited by unscrupulous politicians.  Economic development can sometimes be hindered by democracy.  Just look at Philippines and India - I'm not sure whether the masses prefer a stable guided democracy or soft authoritarian that feeds and gradually move towards greater freedoms, or the chaotic democracy of poverty they have one.  As such, I do not think immediate democratization would suit countries like China or Vietnam. A long drawn progress is needed, but that has to follow economic reforms and progress rather than be ahead of economics.  Having said that, regimes that rule undemocratically also tend to be reluctant to give up those rights.  Countries or territories like Singapore and HK can afford democracy as the people are well-fed and educated.  The continued low-prioritization of those rights can only be counter-productive to the long term economic development of the countries, not to mention demeaning to the general population.  

3) I believe in self-determination of nations, however there should be caveats for the independence of one people can often mean the suppression of minorities in that community who do not support separation.  Just look at the chaos in former Yugoslavia and USSR.  Any self-determination acts should be proceeded with caution.  Tibet is one case which is more complicated than what Hollywood and the world media like to admit, and any reckless act would only lead to miserable consequences.  I am also disgusted by the double-standards often adopted by the western media - which is more interested in Tibetan self-determination but less keen in reining Israel in its treatment of the Palestinians and repeated violation of UN resolutions. 

4) I believe passionately in free trade and globalization. I find it bizarre that the very factors that have propelled the East Asian tigers into economic prosperity (despite recent & ongoing difficulties) in the past decades are now condemned as the causes of Third World poverty. There is so much hype against globalization much of which is ill-informed and offers little alternative path towards development. For me, globalization offers a win-win situation whereby rich countries can enjoy cheap products produced elsewhere and poor countries receive injection of foreign investment, thus providing employment, greater domestic competition that strengths domestic economy, and certainly higher standard of living. The problem we now have is not exploitation of workers in the Third World, but excessive protection and barriers to trade in both developed and developing nations, leading to misallocation of resources, economic underdevelopment and loss of opportunities towards even higher standards of living. To stop foreign investment or impose artificial barriers (such as minimum income laws) would mean pushing entrepreneurs towards economic ruin, thus resulting in loss of jobs. Those in the developed world who are against globalization because they truly believe in the betterment of the Third World should instead ask their governments to open their markets to import of goods manufactured in the Third World and provide incentives for corporations to invest in those parts.  Some of the best articles on globalization can be found here


I am Singaporean and passionately believe in its achievements and future.  With an excellent leadership, the Republic has achieved a lot in 30 odd years but not everything is perfect - despite a first world standard in income and economy, we are elsewhere in political development and individual empowerment.  In the years to come, I hope to see a society that is just, democratic, compassionate, dynamic, liberal and tolerant.  We are some way behind but given the human desire to constantly seek a better future, I am confident that we can overcome the barriers and move beyond the current constraints.  

Government Feedback Unit - I was a member of the London group.    Singapore Government website - the best e-government, or so they say PAP - ruling party of Singapore - fantastic track record, but come'on, relax lah. Workers Party - one of the few opposition parties, Singapore's No. 1 political satire website - great site.  Love it, but it's a pity that only such websites can highlight our feelings & thoughts.  I hope to see the day when S'poreans no longer need such avenues to highlight their feelings.

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