Singapore Media Even saying the word and some of the uninformed may still hold the belief that it is located “somewhere in China,” knowing only where it is approximately. Yet this vibrant, newly industrialized city-state is in fact located close to the equator and is often overlooked on the world map; not surprising, considering it is only represented by a small dot in the South China Sea. Today, the island of Singapore has earned high acclaim for its rapid transformation from a humble trading post to the modern, technological metropolis that it has proudly become. Singapore has been described by some economists as a “modest miracle,” simply because it has managed to achieve the status of an Asian business headquarters with its only resource: people. (Marshall, 1970) Despite its lacking of other resources, due to its strategic location at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is a thriving business hub for Southeast Asia with an excellent communications network infrastructure. It possesses all the trappings of a successful business center with an extremely multicultural heritage, as well as an abundance of colorful and modern environment.
History on this island began around the 15th century, when it became a port of call for various Malay empires ruling at the time. It was most likely favorable to them for its perfect deep-water harbor area; it is one of the worlds largest at roughly 93 square miles, and offers six gateways to the open seas. What the early settlers probably didnt care about was its rich, hilly landscape and fertile tropical forestry. The coastal region of Singapore is very smooth and rocky, easily accessible for all types of boats. They were more interested in the coastal possibilities, and perhaps with the temperate, relatively uniform climate. It is a humid and rainy island, with occasional violent winds. However, the early history wasnt documented as much for its accuracy as it was for its mythology. Singapores modern history began with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company who landed there in 1819 in search of establishing a trading site.
It was quickly transformed into a legitimate British colony, not recognized as property by anyone. Singapore was declared a city by a royal British charter and it quickly created a municipal colony. (Marshall, 1970) With this colony, Singapore was to become a prosperous industrial trade nation. Perhaps its most alarming attribute to success is the growth in population, comprising mainly Singapore citizens and permanent residents. What I mean by citizens is the medley of races making up Singapores resident base; they consist of the Chinese, Malays, Indians, Arabs, Persians, and Europeans.
The population in the early years was probably not more than a few hundred thousand. Today, the number, and ethnicity, of people have risen almost a ten-fold. With all of the dramatic increases in populations of immigrants came the influx of different languages, and cultures, too. Singapores officially-recognized languages are Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil, and English; which is considered the administrative language, the social conglomerate. Singapores mainstay of British authority lasted around a hundred-fifty years before its brief accommodation with Malaysia. Despite being a small, resource-poor island, Singapore gained its full independence in 1965. This new Singapore, staunchly anticommunist, was finally free to pursue capitalism with vigor and determination that set new standards for nations of the Rim.
Singapore faced a problem that was similar to other former colonies: how to take the disparate cultures and blanket of colonial European influences and weave them into a free, modern state. Singapore was spared the problem of traditionally hostile indigenous cultures bound together by unnatural modern state boundaries, with constant tribalism and distribution of power. However, Singapore also lacked the cultural building blocks that are obvious characteristics of a modern nation-state. So how do you turn a multiethnic colony into a cohesive nation? Singapores former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, tried to do this. His policies were attacked and ridiculed. The included strict enforcement of codes of public behavior, use of English as the important language, a national ideology built around cultural tolerance and loyalty to the nation.
Because of the other nations of the world in conflict for post-colonialism, Yew believed the only alternative was to establish a strong central government that could survive the typical splintering of states into pieces. Opposition was minimal among Singaporeans or domestic media, which he mainly controlled. What he basically did in the media was a symbol of the battle between modern authoritarianism and independent journalism. (Stevenson, 1994) Singapore also made an advance in the development of a centralized government. Not a ruthless dictatorship, mind you, but rather an authoritarian government based on the idea of commerce and wealth.
An insidious ingredient of authoritarian control is that it can include shady acts and threats that can later be denied. It is basically a parliamentary system with a written constitution, but infrequently honored. The President is largely a ceremonial head of state, but a Prime Minister and a cabinet representing the majority of parliament essentially run the government. There is a British-influenced judiciary, with a Supreme Court and other sub-divided courts. Most of all though, the foundation of authoritarianism is its domination of the media, which well get into shortly.
The economy originally consisted of primarily trading and shipping, but soon began diverse industries as well. It appears to follow the same traditions as China and Indonesia, as far as financial restraints and economic structure are concerned. In addition to its port activities, Singapore has a large oil and textile industry, and thriving banking, insurance, and communications industries. The city-states post-WWII economic explosion is what would be expected of a newly industrialized country (NIC). Housing and architecture, to touch on culture once again, is a good example of obscuring heritage to accommodate its diversity and multiethnicity. Traditional cultural enclaves and designs are basically being shadowed by the modern, British colonial styles. The original culture, mainly South Asian, has transformed into a mixed melting pot of other cultures.
The culture dates back to the nineteenth century, when Singapore began trading abroad. This enabled the importation of cultural industry from other lands, therefore incorporating it into their own. Religion and family values are also diverse, mainly consisting of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. This provides for other cultural influences to disrupt ancient traditions. Education, however, has seemed to retain its values, managing to stay rich in Asian culture and traditions, despite being British-inspired. They are educated for contribution to the rise in technological development, which obviously denotes a high priority in the English language.
The Western influence is really only on telecommunications and technology, as well as other vocational skills. The schools and universities, almost entirely funded by the state, encourage the development of intellect and society. In essence, the education system was described in the context of resource development, since Singapores only resource is people. The schools are culturally enclosed and very technologically biased. (Hachten, 1993) All this means is that the country instills their traditional Asian heritage into everyday life, but uses the universal English language in almost all technological applications. As Singapore began its ascent into a major industrial advancement in the seventies, there was an insatiable emphasis among policy makers on escalating the level of technology in order to complete the process.
The principal instrument in this strategy was information technology. A key to the strategy was the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (Telecoms), because it had an important role in the progress of every industry in Singapore. Aside from its usual media operations, the Singaporean government, which had inherited an extremely good telecommunications system from the British upon its independence, assigned telecommunications a high priority in economic planning. By the late 1980s, Singapore had one of the world’s most advanced telecommunications infrastructures and, as mentioned before, was developed under the guidance of Telecoms and the government. Its mission was to provide high quality communications for domestic and international requirements, and to serve the business community as well as the public.
Oh, and to do whatever the government tells them, of course. Telecoms offered a large and growing number of services, including radio paging, cellular phones, facsimile, internet, electronic mail, and telepac, a system for linking computers locally and internationally. By 1987, Singapore’s domestic telephone network was completely touch-tone, and all twenty-six telephone exchanges were linked by an optical fiber network. There were 48.5 telephones for every 100 Singaporeans, providing virtually 100 percent coverage in homes and offices. (Birch, 1993) A second key was computers and related electronics which, in the late 1980s, constituted Singapore’s largest industry, measured both in numbers of jobs and in value added by manufacturing.
Throughout the eighties, electronics workers comprised about 28 percent of the labor force and gross production of electronics was at about 31 percent of the total manufacturing output. By 1989, Singapore had become the world’s largest producer of computer disk drives and disk drive parts and other related hardware. (Birch, 1993) The electronics industry began a transition away from l …