Li Ao Lai Liao


My new hero, Li Ao

From today’s ST Life:

After a tour of China in September last year, Li Ao, the famously outspoken Taiwanese politician and author, said at a press conference in Hong Kong: ‘Taiwanese are still better. They’re scoundrels but they’re lovable. Hong Kongers are craftier. Singaporeans are stupider. The Chinese are more unfathomable.’

He argued that since Singapore’s forefathers were poorly educated, Singaporeans are ‘not of a good stock’.He said Mr Lee wanted to build a British-style democracy but because the people are not up to scratch, they only know how to toe the line. ‘Singaporeans do not po ge (break rules) but they also do not chu ge (stand out),’ he said in Mandarin.

But why stop at dissing Singaporeans? Why not whack Jay Chou too?

From Wikipedia’s entry on him:

On May 6th, Li was invited to a talk show with reporter Patty Hou and blatantly ridiculed her relationship with Chinese pop star, Jay Chou.

He referred to the pop star as “ugly” and possessing “two small eyes” and said “I have been put in jail, and then I wrote a book, and finally I could be famous like I am today, how come Jay can just write some songs, shakes a bit and become so famous?”

I like this guy already! There is an element of truth that poor stock equals problems for descendants. I won’t say that Singaporean Chinese are “stupid-stupid”, but when compared to fellow Chinese in Taiwan, HK and China, you’d be ignorant to say we’re superior to them. At best equal, at worst far less competitive and hungry for independent action.

Now Guo Liang argued in ST Life’s article that people don’t remain stupid for generations.

But just look at our education system where the stuck-in-their-ways are teaching the young how to be creative. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise I always fell asleep in class. He will probably consider me stupid too, but hey, at least I won’t shy away from saying that we need to work alot harder.

Fixing it is another thing….but hey! No explicit political views here (Gahmen say so), so I shall stop writing here. (grin).

(10 April: Some readers may think I’m a Singapore-basher. No, not really, I do like my air-conditioned comfort here. What I loathe is the inability of Singaporeans to take barbed criticism and to see why people have such perceptions of us. We’ve been trained to be No. 1 so often, we cannot take it when other people point out that there are areas where we are sorely lacking.)

8 Replies to “Li Ao Lai Liao”

  1. You cannot equate low education with low IQ. So our forefathers were uneducated but the subsequent generations enjoyed higher education so are we of better stock now? And Guo Liang’s defence of Singaporeans comes across more as an insult – “people don’t remain stupid for generations” – so he’s saying the earlier generation was stupid?! My grandfather is turning in his grave!!!

  2. Actually, I believe what Li Ao was trying to put across was more related to cultural level rather than raw intelligence. Singaporeans can be higly educated but still lack class. Like it or not, class is needed to drive appreciation of culture.

    The lack of culture in SG we all know, and this stems from two factors – short history and largely coolie/merchant gene pool. As LKY has mentioned b4, we lacked the mandarins and the scholars from China, and this is our inherent disadvantage when trying to compete with motherland.

    The problem I find here is the adverse local reaction to Li Ao’s statements. There’s really nothing wrong with what he said. Compared to the HKers and Taiwanese, Singaporeans really do fall short.

    Eg. HKers have direct competition from the mainland for the same markets and it’s do or die for them. We compete with Indonesia and M’sia on very different terms.

    Taiwanese companies form the backbone of the global IT industry, something that gives them tremendous political and economic leverage.

    Singaporeans, on the other hand, often do not know or have seen enough to see the bigger picture. When I first stepped into Shanghai, it was a tremendous shock – here was a city that was already more advanced than SG and HK put together. They built the bustling Puxi CBD district in 10 years flat!

    So when SG ppl get outraged, they need to look in the mirror first and see if there’s a glimmer of truth. And why haven’t our own politicians kicked up a fuss yet?

  3. Well his comments related to the education level of our forefathers so what I am saying is that if education level is what determines if a person is stupid or not (whether in a cultural sense or whatever), then we are no longer stupid since the later generations are better educated. Point is that whether a person is stupid or not (in terms of raw intelligence or cultural sense or whatever) is not a matter of education.

    I am well aware of our flaws and that we lack the hunger of the Chinese elsewhere but I believe that every society has its strengths and weaknesses – it really depends on the basis for comparison you choose to use. I do not think we are superior but I do not agree that we are stupider either. My merchant great grandfather brought his children and the children of his brothers to Singapore – they were adventurous people with a can do spirit; no I cannot agree that we are of not of good stock; that would be a great disservice to my greatfather.

    Li Ao’s comments didn’t seem to me to be about class… But anyway, I do agree with you that we are somewhat lacking in terms of our appreciation of culture. But I’m not sure that has much to do with our gene pool. I feel that we lack appreciation of culture because we are not even comfortable with ourselves. Our insecurity stems from the smallness of our country and the lack of natural resources. The Gahmen keeps telling us we have to be no.1 to survive. They know that China, etc can easily outdo us. So we are focused on economic matters rather than the socio-cultural aspects of our society. Look at how we tear down old buildings and the constant changes – I just read in today’s papers that St Michael’s School will be renamed SJI Junior, and what about how Chinese dialects have been discarded (how do you expect the older generation to pass on whatever history & culture to the younger generation with the language gap?) – we do not value whatever short history we have, will we value our history 100 years down the road? I doubt it. When Rajaratnam passed away, many of the younger generation didn’t know what role he played in our history because they were busy studying the history of other societies.

    And we do not accept our identity – e.g. on TV, Singlish is used for comic effect only, altho’ it is everyday language for many of us. This is a denial of who we are. Culture is something dynamic and is always evolving, and it is all around us and not something high class. But we are not comfortable with our young culture, perhaps believing that culture is something old, so you have the Eurasians learning some sort of Portguese folk dance and claiming it as part of their culture. How can we appreciate culture when we can’t even accept our own and keep searching and searching for some sort of Singaporean identity?

  4. Agreed.

    Then again, if an everyone-basher like Li Ao comes along and calls us stupid, what do we do in return? Say that “no, I Not Stupid”, or have the silent confidence that we do have something to show for ourselves?

    I fear showing people the Esplanade.

    Sociologist Chua Beng Huat recently wrote a very interesting letter to ST Forum, talking about how whenever someone criticises us, we retort using our achievements in the economic arena. Yet, as he correctly points out, it is our success that generates the social/political criticisms in the first place.

    See letter here (dun worry, no need to pay one):,5562,381753-1143842340,00.html

    Of course, I’m always of the opinion the education system we went through pretty much sucked. I hated it from day one till I graduated from NTU. Won’t comment on the current one till my kids come back from school and rant.

    But the death of dialects is not totally the govt’s fault. I’m as sad about it as you, and my Hokkien’s really the pits these days from misuse.

    Dialects simply died faster than we expected because it wasn’t a business lingua franca, and not just because there was no Cantonese TVB shows on TV. I can speak Hokkien but I don’t teach it to my kids because I want them to speak English well first. And we only spoke dialect last time because our grandparents couldn’t speak English or Chinese.

    The government keeps us searching for an identity because it wants to keep us rooted to SG. There really isn’t any need to, since most people are enslaved to their HDB mortgages or car loans anyway.

  5. Aiyah, article expired already.

    I agree with you about our education system, at least for our generation. I hated school and wanted to drop out when I was in sec 3. But I think things are better now. Starting with the P1 cohort last year, the class size is smaller and they have implemented what they call “experiential learning” where children learn through experience rather than just sitting there listening to the teacher dish out the facts.

    Maybe we take so long in our search for an identity because in everything we do we have to consider whether it is politically correct, socially acceptable, within OB markers or not…..
    Why do we even need to search for an identity? Such things should come naturally, we are what we are, but we are so used to the social engineering by the powers that be, I think we are waiting for the Ministry of Culture to tell us what the Singaporean identity is, just as the STB gave us the hideous Merlion mascot (see, there is actually something more hideous than the Espanade that foreigners can associate us with).

  6. Stupid Also Can
    Why are Singaporean so concerned about the comments. Li Ao has commented China and Hong Kong. No one out of 1.2 billion people in China gave a damn what he said. No many out of 7 million HKers were even aware of his critics. Think. Why are Singaporean so concerned? Did he really touch Singaporean’s nerves?

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