Singapore : New (and Old) Challenges for the Little Red Dot

photo of Shashi Jayakumar

Singapore : New (and Old) Challenges for the Little Red Dot

Tuesday, 30 May 2023 - 5:00pm
Pavilion Room
Shashi Jayakumar (Oliver Smithies Visiting Lecturer, Balliol College)
Rosemary Foot
Faisal Devji
Southeast Asia Events in Oxford

Singapore is apt to be thought of as the proverbial “poisoned shrimp” – a seemingly tempting morsel, but with defences formidable enough to deter those nearby with predatory instincts. The conventional story of the build up of its security in this, the orthodox  sense – military might combined with economic success – is well-known. In recent years, however, the leadership has had to confront newer challenges: terrorism, self-radicalisation, and, in recent years, threats relating to disinformation and foreign interference. This calls for a new paradigm in security thinking amongst relevant agencies, and equally, for a new conception of resilience. For when faced with challenges emanating from the grey zone, it is precisely those attributes traditionally linked to Singapore’s strengths (diversity, cosmopolitanism) that can be turned against it by various actors, potentially seeding fissures in the body politic that might be exceedingly difficult to mend.

Dr Jayakumar is the Oliver Smithies Visiting Lecturer at Balliol College (April-May 2023). Since 2015, he has been Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He also holds the appointment of Executive Coordinator, Future Issues and Technology at RSIS.

Dr Jayakumar  studied History at Oxford (BA 1997, D.Phil, 2001). He has published in various peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes on topics relating to medieval history (the focus of his doctorate). He was a member of the Singapore government’s Administrative Service from 2002-2017. During this time, he was posted to various Ministries, including the Ministries of Defence, Manpower, Information and the Arts, and Community Development, Youth and Sports. He was from August 2011-July 2014 a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Dr Jayakumar has a wide range of research interests. These include extremism, polarisation, disinformation, cyber, the intersections of technology and geopolitics, as well as Singapore history and politics. His book on the history of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party was published by the National University of Singapore Press in 2021 after ten years of research and writing. His most recent book, an edited volume on upstream interventions in countering radicalisation, Perspectives on Countering Extremism, was published by Bloomsbury in March 2023. 

Away from academia, Dr Jayakumar also holds the appointment of the Singapore government’s representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).