Is Singapore a better place without foreigners?

The following is a comment posted on TOC by “AAA”, under the article, “How Singapore appreciates a PRC who tried to integrate”. The author of the comment describes himself as a “PRC scholar”. TOC tried to get in touch with him but our email failed to be delivered to the email address the author provided.

Nonetheless, we publish it here, without edits, for discussion purposes.


I am a PRC scholar and I have graduated from a local university, just a few months ago.

I have subscribed to TOC RSS feed since last month, and from here I’ve learnt a lot about Singapore, and how people here view us foreigners. I believe it’s always good to hear difference voices.

Before I came here, I didn’t really know much about how Singaporeans see China, and of course I didn’t know the debate on whether to import more “foreign talents” had been on for such a long time.

Now almost five years have passed and I have started working. I have a more complete picture of this society, its people, and how they think, especially after my 5-month long job seeking.

Firstly, I feel it’s difficult to draw a conclusion on whether your policy is right or wrong. However, when I see a Singaporean trying very hard to communicate with food stall staff who can only speak Chinese, I also feel very “strange”. My feeling is that they are very nice people, but they didn’t go through proper language training, or they are allocated to the wrong place.

When we talk about “integration”, there is no doubt that efforts have to be made from both sides. If you are rational, you won’t make any generalization based on a single incident and/or what you assume to be the case.

China is a very special country. Its complexity and diversity is so huge that it is not easy for pure “city boys and city girls” to understand at first glance. I grew up in a large city with 6 million population, but I got the chance to meet with many people in the countryside, and some of them are my relatives. When the mainland people started spreading overseas thirty years ago, we saw people from different classes going out to find a “better life”, or just make money. Within the country, more and more farmers go to large cities in East China to make a living. Yet, the majority of the population (60%) are still living in villages and small towns. And that, creates the big gap between the rich and poor.

So… when you see a male from China on the street, he can be a businessman, a movie star like Jet Li, a scholar like me, or a construction worker who only earns 700 sin-dollars a month. They are from different regions, with different educational backgrounds, different dreams, and very different “quality”. In large cities of China like Shanghai, it’s exactly the same thing. We are used to that, while I find a lot of Singaporeans are not comfortable or “satisfied” with that, or some of them find the construction workers “annoying”. “Diversity” is a big theme in the world. People of different classes live together, and that’s what a metropolis usually look like in the current world, no matter it’s an European or American or Asian city. Yes, they are making money, and… contributing to this society. Meanwhile, they behave in a way they are made to.

Sorry if I’m wrong.

The real question is: Is Singapore a better place without these foreigners? What would be your plan if you were MM Lee? Is that plan feasible?

Secondly, a lot people settle down in Singapore after coming here, and yes, a lot of them leave this place and go to other countries or go back to China. For me, we are bonded to work in Singapore for six years, and I don’t see a a lot of people go to other countries immediately after graduation. Most will at least fulfill the bond, and then, they will make a choice. That’s the whole story. For those studying in private schools, no matter where they go afterwards, they have paid more than what they get. I think on this issue, you can trust your government. They will do fine calculations.

In term of human development, I think Singapore is in-between China and the US. China is rich in culture and resources, and usually you will find more delicious dishes in China, than in i.e. Singapore. However, a lot of people in China are not that disciplined and polite as some of you. That’s true. And there’re some not so nice Singaporeans as well. And there are very big flaws in the system, which could collapse and cause riots any time. There’s a long way to go.

I really admire MM Lee as a great leader in modern Asia. He leads a small country, but he’s been playing big politics. And he’s one of the few who still have such a clear mind at this age. His promotion of English education is politically successful. However, it makes most Singaporeans not have decent knowledge or even decent language skills in Mandarin or English. You are definitely smart people, but just my advise, you need more “culture”. For example, it’s very hard for me to find a Singaporean student to discuss about Chinese History, or Europeans History, in a decent way. It seems that your system make your “values” limited. It’s also not easy to find gifts to bring home for my relatives.

But overall, Singapore is still a model for China, just like 30 years ago when we just opened up. No matter how rich China will become, if people only go for money without knowing how to care for others and taking social responsibilities, China will never be the Han China or Tang China again.

“Integration” is a long, and maybe a frustrating process. Things will only change when better “understanding” is developed.

P.S. Chinese girls are not coming here to steal your husbands.. LOL, it’s the same thing everywhere. Some Singaporean girls will also “steal” other people’s husbands, right? Human nature.. Just take good care of him and make yourself stay charming. Btw I’m male.


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