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Why the present wave of immigration is different from the past

Posted by temasektimes on April 25, 2012

Situated at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the indigenous inhabitants of Singapore are the ethnic Malays. The Chinese and the Indians arrived only much later after the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819.

Singapore was a British crown colony then and it needed to be open to foreigners in order to spur its economy which was largely dependent on entrepot trade.

Chinese and Indian immigrants flocked to Singapore in search of a better life, many of whom eventually settled down there with their children becoming naturalized citizens when self-government was attained in 1959.

Being a colony then, Singapore could afford to welcome foreigners from all over the world with open arms, but not now when Singapore has evolved to become a nation.

The inhabitants of a colony are different from the citizens of a nation. They owe no allegiance to the colony and are free to leave anytime.

On the other hand, citizens have a stake in the nation and an implicit social contract exists between the people and the government. While Singaporeans are expected to serve the state in form of National Service and paying of taxes, the state will have to provide certain social welfare benefits to take care of them in return, e.g. healthcare, education.

The root cause of the rising discontent among Singaporeans at the relentless influx of foreigners stem from the perceived blurring of boundaries between citizens and them – that they are allowed to partake in the economic gains made by the nation without reciprocating.

In the past, almost all the inhabitants of Singapore are immigrants from other countries and there was no differentiation between any groups, but today there is a distinct class of Singaporeans who regard themselves as the rightful owners of their nation.

A unique Singaporean identity has evolved after fifty years after nationhood and though it is still not as strong as the Japanese and Koreans, the fact remains that the younger generation now see themselves as Singaporeans rather than descendents of immigrants.

The existence and continued reinforcement of this Singapore identity will set the threshold for Singapore to accept and integrate more immigrants.

When Singapore was just a colony, its inhabitants did not care much about the number of Chinese or Indian immigrants the British was importing. In fact, they should yearn for more of their fellow countrymen to join them in Singapore both for social and economic reasons as evident by the number of clan associations being set up over the years.

Today, Singaporeans no longer identify themselves with their brethen from Malaysia, China or India. An ethnic Chinese Singaporean has more things in common with an ethnic Malay Singaporean than a Chinese from Liaoning, Jiangxi or Henan.

Singaporeans see themselves as Singaporeans first which explain their discomfort and angst at seeing more and more foreigners living amidst them.

Foreigners now make up 36 percent of Singapore’s population, up from 14 percent in 1990. Of the remaining 64 percent, an increasing number are born overseas.

Though countries like United States, Canada and Australia are largely immigrant societies as well, their percentage of residents born overseas are much lower with 12 percent in the U.S., 20 percent in Canada and 25 percent in Australia according to their latest census.

As Singapore has accepted too many immigrants within a short period of time, it would be almost impossible to integrate all of them.

Before Singapore achieved independence in 1965, most of its inhabitants are immigrants and it was relatively easy to forge a common identity among them whereas we have two distinct groups today – native Singaporeans and foreigners with their own cultural background.

Between the two, the group with the stronger cultural identity will eventually dominate leading to cracks appearing within the social fabric of our nation.

The mainland Chinese have 5,000 years of history behind them. Can we expect them to give up their identity and assimilate seemlessly into Singapore society? Not when there are so many of them in Singapore now.

The Chinese who arrived in Southeast Asia in the 18th and 19th century came in such small numbers that it was not too difficult for the indigenuous community to assimilate them as demonstrated by the emergence of the Babas and Nonyas in the Straits Settlement.

History had shown us that it is always the Chinese which assimilate other ethnic groups and not the other way round due to their sheer numbers, cultural superiority and strong identity as descendents of the “Yellow Emperor” (炎黄子孙)

Northern China used to be ruled by many different non-Chinese tribes and they eventually become fully assimilated into the Chinese race including the Manchus, the rulers of the last Chinese dynasty.

Furthermore, there are fewer incentives for immigrants to integrate into Singapore society now compared to the past. Throughout the early half of the last century, China was wrecked by endless internal turmoil and civil wars. The Chinese immigrants in Singapore had no choice but to stay put, but the present China is a rising superpower. The new immigrants from China can always pack up their bags and return if they do not like the lifestyle here.

The short-sighted immigration policies of the PAP will eventually create social tension between locals and foreigners, erode the sense of belonging among native Singaporeans to their country leading to a massive exodus and eventually the downfall of Singapore.

Immigration is a double-edged sword – it can propel a nation onto a course of greatness like the United States or it can contribute to its eventual downfall and demise like the Western Roman empire and the Korean state of Balhae.

Judging from the rapid influx of foreigners over the last few years and the changing demographics, Singapore may have already passed the point of no return.

With its demise becoming an increasing reality in the next few decades, Singaporeans should seriously consider relocating to another country to seek a more secure future for their children and grandchildren.

Note: This article was first published in the old Temasek Review in March 2010

13 Responses to “Why the present wave of immigration is different from the past”

  1. said

    well the footnote said it. “This article was first published in the old Temasek Review in March 2010”

    Since 2010, how many foreigners were imported and turn into new citizens? Prefer Alien Party will not change their policies unless there is a change of govt. Simple as that. Blame the 60% if you are still whinning. They will never never listen. Good luck.

    If you cant get out of this island, then do not procreate. We are dispensable, Singapore is not coz they still want to get their million dollar pay checks. 😀

  2. C.H. Tan said

    What a sad event that is happening here. as a local born I feel that it is meaningless for what is happening now in Sinapore. AS OUR MR Goh C.T said “are we a quiter or stayer” ( Can our Mr. Goh reply.)
    Should we stay on and fight for the country in the event of troubles or should we go and find another country which give us a good future for our future generatinon. This will has to leave it to the Ruling govt and our Mr Goh. Lastly, I really feel very disapointed with what all the events that happen this few years????

  3. Tim said

    They certainly have 5000 yrs of history..but none of the 5000 yrs of cultured manners they bring onto singapore shore.
    Wherever chinese go, they set up a chinatown…goes to show, they like birds of same feather to flock together..terrible in integration.
    And now, WKS say you need to pay more for town council cleaning if people are inconsiderate…you have to wonder why? KNNB

  4. Zhang said

    Now in Singapore, the majority are Chinese and minorities are Malay then Indians. how many of Chinese respect the Malay.. I have heard Singaporeans referring the Malays as “Villagers”(Translated) which is a racial slur and every race got its own name. Hope you all know those. So the majority of Singaporeans, did you really blend in with existing cultures? Everything is only in papers but not in action. Everyday change will come and people have to adapt. Talking about your last sentence, Singaporeans can migrate to another country and expect them to accept you guys but you wont accept others. What a joke!!!

    • le kong simi? said

      Singaporeans DO NOT “expect” anyone to accept them. They GO OUT OF THEIR WAY to learn their language, adopt to their cuisine, lifestyle, culture and try to integrate with the locals. Totally different from PRCs who just want to come here and think we are the little brother of China. One hand take our money, another hand type shit to cuss at us. F*** OFF. We are little brother to no one. Want to come here? Learn to eat curry. OR shut the f*** up and go home.

      • Zhang said

        all you talk about is curry and eating, eating eating.. all you can do is dress up like Malay or Indian during Racial Harmony Day… you don’t even which swamp u came from..but I know my lineage..You are probably kid with iPad or iPhone bought by your Dad and go whining everywhere..

        Read my comments have I ever used any abusive or vulgar language..look at yours..Thats the way of bringing up of the parent. Look at the mirror and ask your Am I worth live in a country or jungle.

        By the way I’m not PRC ..I’m a SIngaporean 🙂

    • East said

      Some foreign bring their “habits” to Singapore instead of integrate with the locals
      1) Don’t flash the toilet
      2) Don’t wash their hands after going to toilet.
      3) Carry their children urine in the rubbish bin or drain
      4) Talk loud in the MRT train
      5) Don’t apologies when bumped in people
      6) Don’t close the door when using toilet or bath room in public area

      • Zhang said

        Mr East
        Let me see whether these match our SGeans..
        1) Coffee shop toilets go and check it out
        2) HFMD who got affected most in SIngapore
        3) Carry the urine..never heard that the if u mentioning Diapers..where do you expect it goes..Wardrobe?
        4) Loud – Take a transport which goes to Chinatown and of course check out Coffee shops again
        5) SGeans – way of walking amaze me..dont know to keep left..I hope you know what I mean
        6) Dont close the door? weird never seen that in SIngapore..

        theres more too..So who needs integration..Us or Them?

  5. worldorder said

    As I have mentioned before, unless we have an effective way to scrutinse the immigration process, we will be overruned and over ruled by foreigners sooner than expected. Or poor locals are being used as pawns and sacrificial lambs for the elite to continue to stay ahead or on top of all the rest. Then the local poor has to decide what they want for themselves and their children and their chlidrens’ children for the next 50 years or so.

    True foreign talents are always welcome but local Singaporean has a stake in this country that has been built by our forefathers. Foreigners just rotate their career moves around the world and have no sense of belonging to any country unless they take up citizenship of that country.

    Long term stay is an alternative to PR with limited or no benefits attached .And long term stay shall be subject to renewal every five to ten years. Existing PR for more than 10 to 15 years should a a review for conersion to citizenship or risks having their PR status to be converted to long term stay status. PR program cannot be a perpetual movement anymore as it will create inequality in the longer term.

  6. anti immigrants in USA said

    Singaporeans see themselves as Singaporeans first which explain their discomfort and angst at seeing more and more foreigners living amidst them.

    This is common to most of the country, not just Singaporean.

    In 1924, anti-immigrant reached the highest point
    In 1924, Immigaration act in USA had limited the immigration no from 358,000 people to 164,000 people. Also limit set for different nation, example Italy immigrant was set to 4,000, Poland immigrant was set to 6,000.

    In 1924, immigrants number from 1,000,000 was reduced to 500,000 in 1930.


  7. Vivian Balakrishnan said

    >>>Being a colony then, Singapore could afford to welcome foreigners from all over the world with open arms, but not now when Singapore has evolved to become a nation.
    The inhabitants of a colony are different from the citizens of a nation. They owe no allegiance to the colony and are free to leave anytime.

    Didn’t you hear a minister saying SIngapore is NOT a country??????

  8. Billy said

    Net migration rate: 4.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)

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