TL;DR – A big role for a little red dot.
US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un are in Singapore. I mean, woohoo, two of the most powerful men on the surface of earth are in Singapore.
Yes, for the Trump-Kim Summit.
For the first time, the world might have a denuclearised North Korea, a chance at peace between the two Koreas, and a more stable Asia. And if all that happens, the world and history books will remember that it all took place in Singapore.
It’ll be well worth the cost
Such fame doesn’t come free. This Trump-Kim Summit will cost us. As a good host, we won’t make our guests foot the full bill of their stay in Singapore. Then there’s all the security arrangements. That’s also going to cost. In total, the Singapore will spend about $20 million on the summit.
And because we are closing some areas off to ensure the security of the delegations, some of the businesses will lose business.
Some Singaporeans have questioned why we are incurring that cost. Aren’t there better, more important things for us to spend money on? Why are we “wasting” all this money?
But it isn’t a waste of money. It’s an investment. As Minister Shanmugam pointed out. the distance between the Korean Peninsula and Singapore is about seven hours by flight, but only 20 minutes by missiles. Hence, it is “absolutely” in Singapore’s interest to contribute to the peace process by hosting the Trump-Kim summit.
Minister Shanmugam elaborated:
“You have a nuclear capable North Korea. You have American troops in South Korea. And, saying the obvious, the US is a nuclear state. You have a stand-off with the United States and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and you have a nervous South Korea and Japan. It’s a period of tension and you have China which has, obviously, an interest. If there is any incident, it’ll be bad for the whole world, in particular Asia. We will be badly affected. Singaporean jobs, trade and investment all could be affected”
Not only that, PR experts said that hosting the summit is a priceless branding opportunity for Singapore. Images of Singapore will be shown all over the world. Best branding exercise, ever.
Thank you Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong! pic.twitter.com/8MMYGuOj8Q
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
Singapore even helped POTUS celebrate an early birthday! Trump will turn 72 come 14th June 2018.
Fun fact: Did you know what Doritos paid something to the tune of US$5m for 30 seconds of screentime at The Super Bowl?
It’s really a great branding exercise, something that’s perhaps clearly if you live outside of Singapore. I can attest to that. I was in Toronto the week before the Summit. And throughout the week, Singapore kept popping up on the news in Toronto – images of our cityscape, Minister Ng Eng Hen talking about our role, and commentaries about why Singapore was chosen.
Another Singaporean friend who works in Seoul also shared that all the news channels in South Korea are showing footages of Singapore day and night these few days. Every single channel.
I can imagine that it’s the same the world over as all eyes are on this historic Trump-Kim Summit. So, people all over the world will learn about Singapore. Hopefully they will learn that hey, we speak English here!
Specifically, they’ll learn about how safe Singapore is, that we are experienced in hosting prestigious and big-scale and high-level events (think the APEC summit), that we are rich enough to host such a summit, and that we are a neutral country that can’t be bullied but willing to be a trustworthy partner. All of these will increase our international standing.
Businesses will also benefit. Most immediately, this summit showcases Singapore as an ideal destination, especially for businesses and meetings. This could also have benefits in attracting more foreign companies to set up shop in Singapore. Mr Voedisch, managing director of PRecious Communications, explains:
“If everything goes as planned, it will re-emphasise the image that Singapore is one of the safest places on Earth. Which company, CEO or family wouldn’t want that for their families and staff? If you think about why Singapore attracts so many global and regional HQs, it’s because the CEOs and decision-makers feel that it’s not only a good place for them, but safe and enjoyable for their families. So it adds to the image that Singapore can not just attract tourists, but also the best of the international workforce.”
But we can’t let anything distract us…
So it is in our interest that the summit goes well. We shouldn’t let anything distract us.
Some Singaporeans didn’t get that memo. Some Singaporeans thought that it’s a good chance to stage a protest to “draw attention” to the fact that Sentosa used to be the involuntary home of a political detainee, Chia Thye Poh, for 32 years.
Erm. How senseless are those people? There’s a time and place for everything. And the summit isn’t the time for a history lesson. It is time for us to be part of a history-making summit! It almost makes me think that those people want to sabotage our moment in the spotlight. Are those people even Singaporeans?
And play our part as supporting cast well
But we also need to know our role in this summit. We aren’t the stars. Trump and Kim are the stars. USA and North Korea are the stars. We are supporting characters. And good supporting characters don’t draw attention away from the stars. The fact that the two sides asked us to host the summit, and not that we asked for it, shows our high international standing. And how people have a high level of trust in us.
So it’s enough that we are there to “serve tea and coffee”, make sure that everyone in both delegations are safe and comfortable so that they can focus on having a fruitful discussion. There’s no need for us to try to get more of the limelight or to overstate the importance of the role that we are playing. In short, unlike what some opposition politician suggests, there’s no need for us to haolian.
Regardless of the outcome of the summit, the summit has put the spotlight on Singapore and is testament of the prestige that Singapore holds internationally. And that is something we ought to be proud of.