JC H1 History Tuition - Singapore's Foreign Policy - JC History Essay Notes - Cold War in Asia

What is Singapore’s Foreign Policy?

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]: 
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II: Cold War in Asia [1945-1991] – Singapore’s Foreign Policy during the Cold War

Examine Singapore’s Foreign Policy towards Malaysia in view of the Merger-Separation issue. [Video by Channel NewsAsia]

“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

— Lord Palmerston, House of Commons, 1 March 1848

What is a ‘foreign policy’?
It refers to a set of strategies employed by the state to protect its domestic and international interests. A ‘foreign policy’ affects the state’s interactions with other states. Ultimately, the policy is implemented to safeguard national interests.

Foreign policies can involve the use of aggressive (military force) or non-coercive means (diplomacy). Also, these policies can also be carried out through engagement with other states in addressing a common challenge, such as regional security threats.

Singapore’s foreign policy: A summary
There are two key foreign policy theories that are covered the A Level H1 History syllabus: Survival and Realism.

1. Survival
One key ideology that shaped Singapore’s foreign policy is the concept of survival. Following the sudden Separation that led to Singapore’s independence in 1965, the government had to deal with political threats and economic challenges.

Amidst the Cold War context, the rise of Communist insurgencies was a common concern that affected the political stability of Southeast Asian nations. In Singapore, the government was challenged by the Barisan Sosialis.

As for the economic viewpoint, the People’s Action Party (PAP) took the first step towards modernisation by embarking on state-led industrialisation. In particular, the government aimed to establish strong trade ties with other countries, including Great Powers like the USA.

The historical roots of Singapore’s political ideology of survival lie in the events following the country’s ejection from Malaysia in 1965. Survival in both political and economic terms for newly independent Singapore was a very real issue for the PAP Government. The government in the period 1965-67 was involved in an intense, often violent struggle, for power against the Barisan Sosialis and the communists.

…In terms of economic policy, the survival ideology is linked with the concept of the “global city” first proposed in 1972 by Singapore Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam. This concept suggests that if Singapore is to survive, it must establish a relationship of interdependence in the rapidly expanding global economic system.

An excerpt from “SINGAPORE: Reconciling the Survival Ideology with the Achievement Concept” by Lee Boon-Hiok [from the Southeast Asian Affairs 1978]

2. Realism
Realism describes the notion that states should act according to their best interest. From a realist’s perspective, the world is in a constant state of anarchy. Individuals are inherently egoistic and will do anything to pursue power. As such, states should protect their interests through means like the development of an independent defence force as well as the conduct of diplomacy.

Singapore’s interpretation of such a concept and practice was spelled out by Lee Hsien Loong in the same speech as follows:

This policy depends on the competing interests of several big powers in a region, rather than on linking the nation’s fortunes to one overbearing partner. The big powers can keep one another in check and will prevent any one of them from dominating the entire region, and so allow small states to survive in the interstices between them. It is not a foolproof method, as the equilibrium is a dynamic and possibly unstable one, and may be upset if one power changes course and withdraws. Nor can a small state manipulate the big powers with impunity. The most it can hope to do is to influence their policies in its favour.

An excerpt from “Singapore’s Foreign Policy: Coping with Vulnerability” by Michael Leifer

More importantly, Singapore did not rely solely on the goodwill of external powers to manage security challenges. Its emphasis on regionalism and multilateralism was also another vital channel, seen in terms of Singapore’s diplomatic role in ASEAN and the United Nations.

Through Singapore’s consistent lobbying efforts at the United Nations General Assembly, the government was successful in publicise the Cambodian conflict at the international level.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs distinguished itself as a diplomatic dynamo during the course of the Cambodian conflict. The advocacy, lobbying and drafting skills of its officials were employed to great effect within the United Nations against Vietnam and its client government in Phnom Penh. For example, the declaration of the International Conference on Kampuchea held at the UN in 1981 was drafted by Singapore’s delegation. Singapore’s diplomatic success was accomplished through playing on the political sensibilities of states that had been alarmed by the example of a government despatching its army across an internationally recognised boundary to remove an incumbent administration recognised at the United Nations and replacing it with another of its own manufacture.

An excerpt from “Singapore’s Foreign Policy: Coping with Vulnerability” by Michael Leifer

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that Singapore’s foreign policy was largely shaped by Realism.

Join our JC History Tuition and learn more about Singapore’s foreign policy in response to the Second and Third Indochina Wars. We cover other topics for H1 and H2 History through online discussions and written practices. Also, students will receive summary notes to consolidate their content knowledge.

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JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - How were Sino-American Relations - JC History Essay Notes

How were Sino-American relations during the Cold War?

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]: 
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II: Cold War in Asia [1945-1991] – Superpower relations with China (1950-1979): Sino-Soviet relations

Examine how Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing, China have changed the Sino-American relations in the 1970s.

Superpower Relations with China in the 1950s and 1960s
Following the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) victory during the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established. In view of the Cold War climate, the perceived ideological threat in East Asia, USA did not recognise this historical development.

At the same time, the Republic of China (i.e. ROC or Taiwan) was formed, which became a focal point of dispute between the United States and PRC. For instance, ROC was granted one of the Permanent Five (P5) seats in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Notably, the Soviet Union, an ally of PRC, boycotted the UNSC meeting during the Korean War, as a form of protest against this matter.

The absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries was arguably of no surprise to political observers.

Taiwan Straits Crises
In the 1950s, US foreign policy was focused on Taiwan as a pivot for containment in Asia. The Seventh Fleet was situated in the vicinity to protect the security interests of Taiwan from potential threats.

On 11 August 1954, PRC launched an offensive against Kinmen and Matsu. In response, the Eisenhower administration perceived this as an act of military aggression, possibly occupation. As such, the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in December 1954, which assured ROC that the US would provide military support should the former come under attack. This Treaty later shaped US policy of containment in East Asia till 1979.

In August 1957, the “Second Taiwan Straits Crisis” occurred, in which Kinmen and Matsu were shelled and a naval confrontation took place between ROC and PRC. Eventually, the heightened tensions had de-escalated and the Chinese bombardment ceased by October 1958.

Sino-American Rapprochement in the 1970s
In view of the Sino-Soviet Split that culminated in the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict in 1969, the US began to assume a different diplomatic stance towards PRC, albeit a friendly one.

Given that the US still perceived the Soviet Union as its greatest threat, the notion of establishing diplomatic relations with PRC as a strategic advantage to gain a leverage over its Cold War rival.

“Ping Pong Diplomacy” and the historic meet between Nixon and Zhou Enlai
On 10 April 1971, the American table tennis team was invited to Beijing, China. The friendly sporting event was considered unprecedented, given the strained bilateral relations ever since the PRC’s involvement in the Korean War of 1950.

In July 1971, the Nixon administration’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, made a secret visit to Beijing. Pakistan, an ally of China, facilitated the meeting.

On 21 February 1972, US President Nixon met Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing. Nixon also met Premier Zhou Enlai. More importantly, the visit concluded with the signing of the Shanghai Communiqué on 28 Feburary 1972.

The document signified the mutual interests of both USA and China in the normalization of bilateral relations. As such, USA agreed to recognise the “One-China policy” and reduced military support for Taiwan. Also, China occupied Taiwan’s position as one of the P5 members in the UNSC.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– To what extent do you agree that the Cold War rivalry was a major reason in shaping the Sino-American relations from 1950 to 1979? [to be discussed in class]

Following the assessment of the changing bilateral relations between USA and China, it is important to attempt History essay questions to review your conceptual application. Alternatively, you can join our JC History Tuition as we teach you to organise your content, develop your critical thinking skills and form persuasive and coherent arguments. Lessons are conducted with the aim of preparing you to answer essay and source-based case study questions effectively and feasibly within a given timeframe.

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JC History Tuition Bishan Bedok Singapore - What caused the Sino-Soviet Split - JC History Essay Writing Skills Notes

What caused the Sino-Soviet Split

What led to the Sino-Soviet split?
As part of the Cold War conflict, the two Great Powers (China and Russia) that share ideological similarities (i.e. Communism), political clashes had resulted in the deterioration of bilateral relations. From 1950 to 1979, the persistent sense of mutual distrust and antagonism have caused the outbreak of tensions that occasionally took the form of close military confrontation.

Find out more about the motivations of Mao Zedong and Khrushchev to understand the changing Sino-Soviet relations

Topic of Study [For H1 History Students]:
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II: Cold War in Asia [1945-1991] – Superpower relations with China (1950-1979): Sino-Soviet relations

In the following part, we will examine the major events that contributed to the deterioration in Sino-Soviet relations from 1950 to 1979. It is important to consider the roles of China and Soviet Union, especially the political leaders.

1. [Stalin & Mao] Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship of 1950
Following the Communist Party of China’s (CCP) victory during the Chinese Civil War, Stalin extended his invitation to CCP Chairman, Mao Zedong, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Friendship on 14 Feb 1950.

For the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Treaty offered both economic and security benefits. Soviet aid of $300 million in loans was handed out to China. Additionally, Russia offered security support for China. For Russia, the Treaty was beneficial as Stalin would gain from a new trading partner.

However, the Treaty had sowed the seeds of the Sino-Soviet split. Mao took offense at the unequal bilateral relations with Russia. For example, the above-mentioned Soviet loans had to be repaid with additional interest.

2. [Khrushchev & Mao] Khrushchev’s ‘Peaceful Coexistence’
In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev introduced a new Soviet foreign policy at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) – Peaceful coexistence.

Khrushchev believed that continued aggression against the Western nations, especially USA, would eventually result in a nuclear war (i.e. Mutually Assured Destruction). Therefore, he proposed that the Soviet Union should coexist than antagonise Western, capitalist nations.

However, Mao criticized Khrushchev’s peaceful coexistence, labeling it as a ‘revisionist’ form of Marxism. In contrast, Mao advocated a firm belief that Marxism-Leninism would clash with Western ideology (capitalism and democracy), resulting in an inevitable conflict. Hence, ideological differences between the two leaders led to the widening Sino-Soviet split.

3. [Khrushchev & Mao] Mao’s Great Leap Forward
From 1958 to 1962, Mao implemented a large-scale economic and social campaign known as the Great Leap Forward. It was based on a traditional Marxist-Leninist method that focused on the mass mobilization of citizens for rapid industrialization.

However, the Great Leap Forward turned out to be a disaster. The inefficient model caused the estimated death tool of 56 million. Additionally, Khrushchev disagreed with Mao’s approach and withdrew Soviet support, thereby halting China’s nuclear programme.

4. [Khrushchev & Mao] Exchange of verbal aggression
In Jun 1960, the Romanian Communist Party Congress was held. During the meeting, both Khrushchev and Mao engaged in a ‘war of words’, in which they criticized one another publicly.

For example, Khrushchev accused Mao of being ‘a nationalist, an adventurist and a deviationist’. Similarly, Mao labelled Khrushchev as a ‘patriarchal, arbitrary and tyrannical’ Marxist revisionist.

5. [Khrushchev & Mao] Cuban Missile Crisis & Sino-Indian War of 1962
During the October Crisis, Mao accused Khrushchev of being cowardly towards USA, following the latter’s agreement to dismantle the missile bases in Cuba. Again, Khrushchev insisted that his foreign policy of peaceful coexistence was critical to avert a nuclear disaster. Yet, Mao argued that the Soviet Union had failed to support the communist revolution and lost its credibility as the leader.

Similarly, in Oct 1962, a border dispute between China and India resulted in a military confrontation. However, contrary to Mao’s expectations, Soviet Union did not provide security support to China. Hence, the Sino-Indian War had confirmed suspicions of a Sino-Soviet split.

6. [Brezhnev & Mao] Sino-Soviet border conflict
The period from Mar to Sep 1969 was arguably the peak of the Sino-Soviet split. In Mar 1969, the Soviet Union invaded China and occupied the disputed area – Damansky (Zhenbao) Island. The border conflict nearly led to the outbreak of another world war. The incident was a significant turning point in Cold War history as Mao sought rapprochement with the USA to avoid a two-way confrontation with the superpowers.

What can we learn from this case study?
Consider the following questions to understand the case study:
– How far do you agree that ideological differences were the main cause of the Sino-Soviet split from 1950 to 1970? [to be discussed in class]

Besides the consideration of the above-mentioned factors that affected the superpower relations with China, you can sign up for our JC History Tuition to develop effective critical thinking and essay writing skills.

Additionally, you can join other JC tuition classes, such as GP Tuition, Economics Tuition, JC Chemistry Tuition, JC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition classes, we offer Secondary English Tuition, Secondary Math tuition, Secondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more about our tuition programmes.