Singapore must adapt to great power rivalry to thrive, say experts

5 October, 2019

Photo: ‘Sunset at the Port’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

In the first session of the Singapore Bicentennial Conference held on 30 September, with the theme of ‘War & Wealth’, Associate Professor Peter Borschberg (NUS Department of History) notes that Singapore has always occupied a contested geopolitical space, in view of the tensions between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific region today.

To demonstrate his point, A/P Borschberg cites the historical roles that Singapore played; it was once a naval base of Melaka, a gatekeeper to towns along the Johor River, and a rendezvous point for Portuguese and Spanish armadas in the 1500s and 1600s. As such, security before 1819 was multi-polar and thus, very fragile. In today’s context, he also brings up how Singapore is caught in between competition for control of the Malacca Strait, which may yet again threaten its security.

With that in mind, A/P Borschberg suggests that something which needs to be thought about is what Singapore’s history of reinventions and reincarnations of itself as a settlement with different functions will mean for the future, amidst great power rivalry.

Read the article here.