Saturday, August 04, 2012

Importing PRCs and Olympic medals

I left some comments on LIFT's blog and the "Musings from Aotearoa" blog with regards to Singapore's strategy of importing foreigners and thereby winning Olympic medals through them. I thought I would gather my comments here for easy future reference.

I declare that I am not particularly interested in sports. I watch it occasionally to admire the grace and beauty of the human form, the team-spirit and the spirit of endeavour that competitive sports brings out. I comment on this matter as an ordinary Singapore citizen, who is now a resident in a host country (Canada) and having met other (ex-)PRCs in both Singapore and that host country (Canada). I believe my views on this matter are typical of a regular Singapore citizen.

Firstly, IMHO, there is no glory in Singapore importing PRCs and thereby indirectly "buying" the Olympic wins. Glory for the individual sports(wo)man who trained hard for that Olympic medal for sure; but nope, no glory for a country that puts winning medals above developing the spirit of sportsmanship in its citizens.
Addendum on 06-Aug-2012: An analogy for those who who argue that born-and-bred Singaporeans will never have the talent, temerity or “吃苦” ability ["bear with hardship"] to win an Olympic medal. Imagine that you are an extremely-rich middle-aged parent who gave birth to an average child who at best scored B's in all his/her exams, but you want so much to win a Nobel Prize in your family's name, within your lifetime. Would you go to the best research universities in the world to adopt any promising researcher, dangling a $1 million carrot to win a Nobel prize in your family's name? Or would it make more sense to re-evaluate your desire to "win a Nobel prize in your family's name, within your lifetime" at any cost? There is no "right" or "wrong" answer, just a question of where your values lie.
Secondly, to share my observation of how some (ex-)PRCs views their allegiance, despite claiming citizenship from their host countries. [See my comment on the "Musings from Aotearoa" blog below.] IMHO, this may become an important national issue in Singapore in the long run, given Singapore's hyper-drive in welcoming immigrants from PRC. There is no point in telling the born-and-bred Singapore citizens ad-nausem to welcome these new citizens into our arms, because no matter how welcoming we are, (from my observation and generalization) for a significant group of these ex-PRC new-Singapore-citizens, their allegiance still lies with their birth country. Freudian slips don't lie. [Click here and here for examples of from (ex-)members of the ex-PRCs, new-Singapore-citizens Singapore Olympics female table tennis team.]


[Extract of my comments on LIFT's blog entry "Q&A: Who do you support at the Olympics?"]

Winking Doll wrote on 28 July 2012 05:19:
[... snipped earlier part of comment...] As for supporting which country's team, I am not particularly nationalistic, just enjoy watching the performances. That said, I felt excited watching the Canada and the Singapore contingents marching out. However, to be honest, when the commenter talked about how all eyes will be on the Singapore table-tennis team which won Silver at the last Olympics, all I could think of was that wasn't Singapore that won -- at best, Singapore spent a lot of money buying an Olympic medal -- it was China's "B team" that won. Not that I am against foreign talent. E.g. If Olympian Ronald Susilo were to win, I would consider that a Singapore win. I don't know how to explain it, but I feel that Ronald has integrated into the Singapore society and become one of us, but his ex-wife Li Jiawei (and I suspect her other ex-PRC/now-Singapore-citizen team-mates) are merely mercenary Olympians "selling their medals" to the highest bidding country. Sorry, I know it is not fair of me to prejudge others whom I do not know personally, but that's how I honestly feel.
Winking Doll wrote on 29 July 2012 02:49 in reply to LIFT's question about where do I draw the line on foreign involvement in Singapore sports.
Let's draw a hypothetical analogy with academic/research performance. Imagine that the Singapore government sets up a million-dollar reward for any Singapore-citizen who wins a Nobel prize. 
Example 1: Imagine that a Singapore-citizen student, who grew up in Singapore, goes to an Ivy-league or Oxbridge university to do research with the best minds in the world. Within a few years, he/she wins a Nobel prize and the Singapore government's reward as a result. (Ok, I know that is stretching the possibility, but please bear with it for the sake of the illustration.) In my mind, he/she is a Singapore-citizen who achieved greatness -- through a combination of excellent foreign guidance and his own efforts. 
Example 2: Imagine that a Swedish-citizen accepts a scholarship from the Singapore government to go to an Ivy-league or Oxbridge university to do research with the best minds in the world. But as a condition of the scholarship, the Swedish must surrender his/her Swedish-citizenship for a Singaporean one. The Swedish agreed to become a Singapore citizen, but made no attempt to integrate into the Singapore society. Within a few years, he/she wins a Nobel prize and the Singapore government's reward as a result. When interviewed by the Swedish media, he/she says [in Swedish], "自己是个斯德哥爾摩人, 又是瑞典人。 我希望能在自己的本土, 自己的地盘上, 能够取得一枚諾貝爾獎牌 。" ["I am a Stockholm native, also a Swedish. I hope that I can in my own country, on my home turf, win a Nobel prize."] Can he/she be considered a Singapore-citizen who achieved greatness? Technically speaking "yes", since he/she holds the Singapore passport now. But would the regular Singapore citizens consider him/her a fellow Singapore citizen, especially after what he/she said to the Swedish media? 
See the url below for what Li Jiawei told China's media back in 2008. A Freudian slip, perhaps? 
So in conclusion, I don't care if the Olympian was originally born outside of Singapore and/or if he/she trained overseas and/or if he/she had foreign coaches. I think if the Olympian managed to somehow integrate into the Singapore society and identifies himself/herself as a Singapore-citizen publicly (over-and-above that of his country of origin), then yes, I will support him/her to compete for Singapore. 
Another example for reference, LIFT. If Singapore hosts an Olympic games and UK paid for your full-time training so that you would represent UK for gymnastics in the Singapore Olympics. Would you tell the Singapore media that you are a Singaporean and want to win a medal on your home grounds? How would the Brits feel if you did that?
Winking Doll wrote on 30 July 2012 04:02 in reply to LIFT's comment on Singaporean's outrage at "PRC" flag-bearer.
Haha, I was expecting that the Singaporeans would be outraged that the flag bearer is a PRC, given the strong anti-PRC sentiments in Singapore right now. However, I would like to suggest a different (rather Canadian) way of looking at the flag bearer selection. 
Carrying a flag well is a strenuous task. If there is no wind, a good flag bearer would wave that pole to create some breeze to display the flag. If there is wind, the flag bearer would have to carry the pole against the resistance of the flag lapping in the breeze. Either way, carrying a flag requires much strength and uses up much energy. Therefore in Canada, the flag bearer role is seen as a "dirty job" -- for which only the Olympian deemed "sacrificable" would be "arrowed" to do. 
Cheers, WD.

[Extract of my comments on the "Musings from Aotearoa" blog entry "Olympics Fever"]

Winking Doll wrote on 04-Aug-2012:
Yeah, I agree with you. My Canadian-citizen (ex-PRC citizen house-mate) was so excited about China’s medals compared to Canada’s medals. I teased him, “你都以经是加拿大人了,怎麽还把自己当是中国人?出卖加拿大。” ["You're already a Canadian, why do you think of yourself as a PRC? (You're) Selling out Canada."] 
His concept was that all “yellow-skin people are PRCs” [黄皮膚 = 中国人]! Big joke!
[Edit: He also theorized about why China won so many medals.]
Then he said, “新加坡也有嬴浆的机会阿!大家都看好那乒乓队!” [Singapore also have a chance to win medals. Everyone have high expectations of the (Singapore female) ping-pong team (which comprises of PRCs fast-forwarded into newly-minted Singapore citizens).] 
I replied, “她们跟你一样,头脑老是把自己当是中国人。嬴了也不光采!” [They (the Singapore female table tennis team members) are just like you, keep thinking in their heads that they are PRCs. There is no glory (for Singapore) even if they win!"] 
So there you go, I have met a significant number of PRCs who have this concept of “yellow-skin people are PRCs” [黄皮膚 = 中国人]. There is no way they will integrate and/or change allegiance to their host country. At least some are honest about their allegiance and tell me frankly that they will only choose to remain as PRs. There are those who “want to have their cake and eat it too” like my housemate above, whose allegiance clearly remains with PRC, even if they have acquired their host country’s citizenship (and surrendered their PRC citizenship because of PRC’s laws). This group is the scariest, because they even expect people like myself to think like them (when my only connection to China — and it is the historical pre-Communist China, not even PRC as it exists today — is my 4 late grandparents). That is, these PRCs expect me to share their concept of “yellow-skin people are PRCs” [黄皮膚 = 中国人]. Sorry, mate! My fellow Singapore citizens of other skin colour are closer to my heart than you strangers. 
Cheers, WD.
[Click here for another peek into the mindset of this ex-PRC now-Canadian-citizen house mate.]


Interestingly (ex-)PRCs aren't the only ones who (IMHO) seem to have difficulty distinguishing ethnicity from nationality. From my observation, Filipinos are another group with the same difficulty. I wonder why.


  1. Lim Bo Seng
    Tan Kah Kee
    Tan Tock Seng
    Eu Yong Sen
    We have a list of this folks

    They were loyal to China and no one bitched about it. All of them were from China but well loved by Singaporeans because they contributed to the lives of the people. That's the difference here. Regardless of nationality, if you do good for the people, no one will doubt you. Our foreign friends have to ask themselves how sincere they are in contributing to Singapore before whining about xenophobia.

    1. Hi asingaporeanson,

      > Regardless of nationality, if you do good for the people, no one will doubt you.

      I like this "spanner" that you throw into the works. I think your single point is stronger and more focused than my arguments above. 敬佩 [My respects to you!]

      Cheers, WD.