The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side. Or is it?

Many a times I’ve heard Singaporean professors say, with a tinge of envy, that Singapore is not as blessed as Hong Kong because we do not have mainland China as our “hinterland.” Because the remark was made to a Chinese audience – oft times Chinese officials on “learning trips” to Singapore – it’s hard to tell if the professors were brown-nosing (90% probability) or if they were sincere. Whatever it is, this sort of comment falls squarely into the “cringe-inducing” category by my taxonomy, and I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from shooting off this rejoinder, “Thank heavens China is not Singapore’s hinterland!”

I may be speaking for myself, but this is why I think Singaporeans are not terribly envious of Hong Kong’s proximity to China. The pervasively bad press on China puts us off, and encounters with mainland Chinese in our day to day life have accentuated the sense of us versus them, even for Singaporean Chinese and particularly those of us who are more proficient in English than Mandarin. As it is, the Singapore we live in today is already inundated with Chinese newcomers. Just imagine what happens if China is just next door.

For that matter, neither are many Hongkongers jubilant to have China as their hinterland. Continue reading…