Posts Tagged ‘higher education in Asia’

Yale brings liberal arts to illiberal Singapore

September 19, 2011

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

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