[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, October 27, 2008

[The Cycles of Chinese History]
Studying the expressive faces of the terra cotta soldiers, I thought how contemporary they looked. While the wheels of civilization have moved us forward, there are aspects of the human condition which don't change. Xian or Chang'an, with its long history, is a story of both change and continuity.

It matters a lot when and where one is born. In the long cycles of Chinese history, to be born at the right period is crucial. Until Deng Xiaoping pushed China on the road of reform, the problems seemed unending. Entire lives were wasted in war and revolution. Young Chinese grow up today in a China my parents would not have recognised.

The re-emergence of China will affect all our lives in a profound way this century. Many people around the world were impressed by China's organisation of the Beijing Olympics. From 1949 to 2008 is 59 years. If we reel back to the Ming Dynasty, from Zhu Yuanzhang's triumph in 1368 to the voyage of the first Ming fleet to the Indian Ocean in 1405 was only 37 years. Those voyages had an impact on people then far greater than the recent Olympics. Imagine the impact on China's neighbours when it was unified under Qin, Han and Tang.

Singapore can't avoid being caught up in China's political developments. Because many Chinese in Singapore supported the Republican cause, so Dr Sun Yat-Sen made Singapore a base for his operations in the Nanyang. Because Singaporean Chinese opposed Japan's invasion of China, so the Japanese Army did terrible things in Singapore when it conquered Southeast Asia during the Second World War. The PAP's vision of an independent Singapore clashed with that of pro-China Communists and young Singaporeans were not allowed to visit China for many years. When I followed my parents to visit my grandparents in 1983, ISD interviewed me for an hour before and after the visit. When Deng opened up China, he saw Singapore as an interesting model for China to analyse. Lee Kuan Yew, from being an arch enemy became a respected old friend.

Our relations with China are now excellent. PM Wen Jiabao told PM Lee Hsien Loong a few days ago that bilateral relations should be characterised by six characters: 友好,合作,创新 (friendship, cooperation, innovation). Looking ahead, our links with China will broaden and deepen further. But so will our links to other parts of Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East.

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