Yale brings liberal arts to illiberal Singapore

In the West, Singapore has a well-crafted reputation as the little engine that could, and that does it on time. It’s a charming image that’s almost completely false.

Singapore receives ritual designation annually as the world’s second freest economy, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, from America’s rightwing Heritage Foundation. Singapore’s mythical status as a corruption-free zone is built on the twin pillars of selective law enforcement, such as ignoring widespread reports of unlicensed promoters illegally bringing higher rollers to its two enormously profitable casinos, and lack of laws against practices considered corrupt in the West, including conflict of interest and trade restraining practices. Though it presents itself as a parliamentary democracy, Singapore’s government deploys its full rage of powers to sustain the ruling party’s reign and suppress political free expression.

In its own neighborhood, people know Singapore as the preferred destination for wealth, legally obtained or otherwise. When Singapore says it wants to become the Switzerland of Asia, it’s not talking about tropical alpine skiing. While spouting pieties, Singapore bathes in filthy money stolen from the poor of Asia and beyond, and hypocrisy breeds contempt.

So it comes as a surprise and disappointment that Yale University has fallen for Singapore’s propaganda. Yale will build its first branch campus in the city-state. Bringing liberal arts to an illiberal place, Yale won zero concessions from Singapore on free speech issues and thinks the new campus will help elevate its reputation in Asia. Enjoy your Singapore sting on the rocks, Yalies.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

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4 Responses to “Yale brings liberal arts to illiberal Singapore”

  1. John Says:

    Mr Cohen, you are making allegations about Singapore that you have no facts to support. Why did you get your information about dirty money? Idle gossip from your Hong Kong friends who are running scared by the competition from Singapore? Get off your high horse for crying out loud. All this talk of openness from hypocritical Westerners like you make me want to puke. Just look at how close-minded your politicians are when it comes to understanding China – all the damn stereotypes. Wanna change the world. Try changing your crocked system at home first. Enjoy your fiction writing because that’s what your brand of journalism is all about

  2. John Says:

    Free expression? I have a suggestion for you. Why don’t you try lobbying for a Nazi or Islamic state in the US for a reaction? Freedom? Yah right, in a system that is no more than duopoly of vested interests, with a bunch of followers who believe in their self-righteous propaganda. That’s American politics for you in a nutshell from an Asian perspective. A bloody joke.

  3. John Says:

    Btw Cohen, institutions who call Singapore almost corruption free, aren’t they all Western entities? That abide by international laws and standards? No? Do you really know what you are writing mate? Or are you so obssessed with your anti-Singapore and envy-Singapore sting that your thinking cap or whatever that is left of it becomes even more shrivelled? Get off your high horse mate. Thanks to your enlightened pals in the West, the world has had to undergo various economic dislocations in the past few years! It is not a global financial crisis mind you, but a Western one. Call yourself globalised? Don’t be a joke Cohen, just like that largely Cantonese (as opposed to Chinese) city that you live in. Very interesting that my comments are awaiting moderation, when you feel so FREE to spew your vitriol against others. When challenged, what do proponents of democracy, free speech, free trade so and so forth, you retreat into protectionism. Go home to New York and rot. It’s idiots like you that give Yale “the fount of free thinking”, the US, the West and independent and unbiased journalism a bad name.

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