Saturday, January 14, 2017

SG crisis of foresight?

Even as Kerry visits Vietnam, their party chief is having a brotherly conversation of a fellow communist in China.

Vietnam is shrewd to strengthen its ties with all key parties. Unlike us they do not need to re-calibrate but they show us that it is possible to stay as friends with both the US and China for now.

I think every medium and small Asian states would want to keep as many options as possible. The Philippines and Malaysians have re-calibrated but we have not and may even be wondering if we need to.

Our edge and survival strategy cannot change because as a tiny island state we have no choice. We just have to understand what is happening much better than every other player. Big powers act to defend and promote their interests, tiny states like us do not have that option but park ourselves at the right spots ahead of time. What I do not know is without LKY and Raja are we able to pull this off. The capture of our Terrexes by Hong Kong suggest that our early warning radar failed. The Chinese national now Singaporean William Zheng Wei, suggested we ought to have imitated LKY was spot on. We better buck up.

Without securing our external space every good thing we have domestically cannot be sustained or protected.

In that red box, Ng Eng Hen identified three antagonistic pairs of forces at work today. They are Globalisation versus nationalism, global rules versus the regional order, and collective good governance versus individual rights.

To me they appear remarkably like those scenarios I used to work on and they are probably from PMO scenario planning outfit. The problem with that approach is that they are only good at describing what is going on in a limited way and quite useless at suggesting appropriate course of action. For example, it is tantamount to saying we need to find a way into the future but is incapable of suggesting that you need a compass and a map or even those aren't good enough and a GPS is required. They are impressive for those who can't do better but useless when we need to go above and beyond that. We need to rearrange the facts to form pictures beyond what such scenario planning methodology can produce. They do not offer enough insight to support foresight because to paint the big picture in neat concepts is had to leave behind what was ill fitting to building their models. What was rejected would often proved to be absolutely critical. 

Shell invented scenario planning and it failed to help them stay on top. ExxonMobil with Lee Raymond and Rex Tillerson had done much better than Shell. 

I fear we might have a deficiency of foresight among our present generation of leaders because they could not make sense of the present situation as well as LKY could, which was alluded to by William Zheng Wei. Foresight as my daughter pointed out in an essay a few years back is founded on superior understanding of the present. In the Terrex case, our leaders failed to understand better what it meant for the KMT to lose to DPP in Taiwan's presidential elections. In other words had the KMT controlled the presidency and stuck with the 1992 consensus, the Chinese would not have detained our Terrex vehicles. 

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