Bad Analogy Chen Show Mao

In Political governance on 30/10/2011 at 7:05 am

“In this 12th Parliament, I hope a wise ruling party can be Tang Taizong while we the WP can be Wei Zheng. Together we can create a prosperous era, one that is not dictated by a single ruler surrounded by ‘yes’ men”. (For those Indians, Malays and Eurasians not versed in Chinese history, there was in emperor Tang Taizong’s reign, a court official, Wei Zheng, who was not afraid of offending the emperor by telling him the truth. The emperor’s reforms has been credited to Wei’s criticisms.)

My criticism is that by equating the PAP to a Tang dynasty emperor and the WP to an official of that emperor (even though he qualified himself by saying, “In this 12th Parliament … “, so setting a time limit), he is (inadvertently):

— helping the PAP to perpetuate the myth (that the PAP is always encouraging) that it has a natural right (or mandate of heaven) to govern S’pore.: the WP, can at best, only counsel, never becoming the government;

— equating the PAP with the government (a Chinese emperor was the government and vice versa), something one LKY liked to do;

— boxing the WP into making “constructive” criticisms (that was what Wei was doing, as I understand it); and

— risking alienating minorities (example of an irritated S’porean Indian, who usually has great difficulty getting upset). This is something WP has to be very careful of, given the wide-spread perception that it is a “Chinese” party. An example.

I am certain he never intended these interpretations or impressions, but they are reasonable inferences from his illustration. One can see the government moving to frame the role of the Opposition in parliament:

— the day after Chen spoke the PM said he wanted: An inclusive society where no Singaporean is left behind, a vibrant economy where growth benefits everyone and constructive politics that puts Singapore first; and

— last Sunday, the Law and Foreign Affairs minister (a local Indian), said, “The Government has put forward its views, and the idea of a debate must be that the Opposition puts forward constructive suggestions on how the Government’s agenda and policies and programmes can be improved.”

So the trap is being laid to use Chen’s words against the WP.

My advice to Chen Show Mao: go easy on using analogies, examples or allusions from Chinese history or culture and read this on “… the difficulty of choosing a unifying symbol in a multiracial, multireligious society”.

Otherwise a good speech. Made better when Dr Teo Ho Pin criticised it*, showing us yet again that

— the PAP seems to have recruited “smart” men with who love putting their foots in their mouths (think Drs VivianB, Lim Wee Kiah and Puthu); and

— there is something wrong in the PAP MP selection process (think Tin and Foo).


*Dr Teo Ho Pin “did not know the difference (Mr Chen) has made” in defining the differences. Mr Chen was making the point that political differences are not akin to divisions that will lend to time-wasting politicking and gridlock.

  1. That’s why PAP will still be rulers for next 20 yrs. Continue to park your money in assets that the PAP family also buy.

  2. You get monkeys when you pay peanuts. What did the PAP pay to get those cretins you mentioned?

  3. I am guessing you are not “Chinese Educated” Chines and cant appreciate how beautiful Chen Show Mao’s speech is to their ears. For the longest time, this group has felt very repressed by PAP. Even as PAP somewhat played the promoter and defender of the Chinese language by make it a compulsory subject, few dare to push harder for fear of being labelled a “Chinese Chauvinist”. As such, even though we have forced Chinese education through the years, it’s practical use is getting watered down to a hawker centre language.

    Having the Chinese language used intellectually in parliament is refreshing. Contrast that with Lee Bee Wah’s “ai pang sai ka che jamban”, and you will know what I mean.

    Will it alienate others? Probably. I personally feel humbled because I studied in an SAP school and read the Zaobao daily and yet still have not heard of Wei Zheng.

    But also mentioned in Chen’s speech is the same theme: ‘Who can listen if the orchestra only plays one note?’

    And in this era of short attention span and sound bites, until Chen Show Mao is Prime Minister, I doubt minorities will study his speech in similar detail as the Chinese.

    The Chinese educated traditional has been unhappy but not attracted to JBJ (Indian) or Chiam (English educated). Rocking the vote of this group can prove decisive in coming elections.

    • Taz precisely why Chen has to be careful. The PAP will be out trying to persuade the Indians, Malays etc to vote PAP to prevent the Chinese “chauvanists” from taking over.

      I have a friend, Chinese-educated who gets upset when I ask him how come he so anti-PAP despite SAP schools, “Confucian values”, Speak Mandarin” and forcing the Straits Chinese to study abroad from sec school onwards because got problems with mandarin. All he can do is curse PAP for destroying Chinese culture while promoting Mandarin.

      • Chen Show Mao doesnt have the Chinese school baggage of the locally Chinese educated (unlike Nantah educated LTK), and in fact more closely fits the other PAP fav label: “Western educated liberal”…. I think Chen Show Mao will prove impossibly hard to “fix”. 😀

      • I hope you are right.

  4. I disagree with your article here, and is ok we can agree to disagree.

    I’m English ed but fairly bilingual. I’ve never heard any politician ever said something quite so profound and elegant while still taking a good stand for the WP. In fact, it is refreshing, and prompted me to search and find out more about Wei Zheng. There’s nothing chauvinistic about CSM’s speech. In fact what LTK has said is also true. That Singapore has murdered the love and masterful use of chinese language in many of us. Not withstanding that, if the strategy is to target at the low-highly educated core chinese group that have been very loyal to PAP, I think it might work for them. I don’t see WP as a chinese party. It has Sylvia Lim, Pritam & Yee Jen Jong etc which is a very well balanced bi-lingual group.

    In fact, if any Indian/malay politicians would want to share some of their rich histories on Islam and India analogies, I think it can add rich colors to the debate and allow our multicultural citizens to learn more about our roots and ourselves. These are good signs of a matured society and CSM gives us credit for that. It should not be stopped just because a minority feel “left out” or ‘irrelevant’ in this one context. I would then suggest the minority to speak out and share their rich content with us all. I’m dying to learn more.

  5. I think the reason why this would be played up was because of MSM focus on his Chinese speech. If you notice, he did speak in English first. And his speech in English was wonderful, as pointed out by jim on CSM orchestra example.

  6. Today’s Zaobao had yet another article contributed from the “public” basically dissing his speech. The battle to win the minds of the Chinese heartlanders is on.

  7. […] – Words Of the Cze: Regular – Kaffein-Nated: Totally disconnect – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Bad Analogy Chen Show Mao – self-contained: in defence of Chen Show Mao’s speech – Think Happiness: Make Parliament […]

  8. I’m a minority but won’t claim to speak for all minorities. Personally, I think the use of an example from Chinese history is acceptable. CSM’s ethnically Chinese, and I respect the fact that he’s well versed in his own history. Similarly, I’d have no issue if the example was Malay, Indian, african or western – just as long as it was relevant to his argument. The use of a Chinese, Malay or Indian example would, hopefully, have more of a connection with our populace. And the astute reader would have noticed that CSM has shown his awareness of other cultures/history.
    In any case, he’s expressing his own views, its not like he’s using public funds to put ang moh Jim Roger’s kid on TV campaigns extolling the virtues of the Chinese language to all

    • Splendid! We should be open minded and not have inferiority complex. There is nothing wrong in using example from history to put across a point be it Chinese, Malay or any others nationalities. A great intellect is opened to view from all sources and ones who closes their mind is blind to its fault. With diversity we can be richer and wise.

  9. I can’t help but to think he could not resist the opportunity to ” show off” his mastery of the English and Chinese language( his chinese is by far the best among all MPs). And he shouldn’t be apologetic for displaying his linguistic skills because he is a perfect example of Sg’s bilingual success story.

    That said, he is indeed a politician(even ministerial material)to watch and PAP knows that.

  10. Chessmaster, you are probably right…for all the PAP’s bilingual policy, none of its MPs can effective deliver a speech in proper English and Mandarin…

  11. *effectively – typo there 😦

  12. @Jim,
    I am in complete agreement with you. It is beautifully delivered in Mandarin. The standard is very high ! Our PAP Ministers or MPs cant compare at all.

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