ALLIES JRP: Research and Food Diplomacy in Singapore

By: John McIntyre

Welcome back to Singapore–the “Lion City” (fun fact: it was named the “Lion City” after a Sumatran Prince believed he saw a Lion on the shore of the island nation)! Our time in Singapore has been truly exceptional, but it is also remarkably different from Kuala Lumpur.

A Hawker Center in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur gives you the city-rush feeling when you’re in the heart of everything, but if you walk 10 blocks in any direction–you’re likely to be in a calmer neighborhood. However, in Singapore, it seems like no matter where you turn, something is going on. That may be because the entire country is slightly smaller than New York City. In addition, we are experiencing a higher cost of living – our USD no longer buys us the same luxuries it did in Malaysia, as the exchange rate is far less favorable. Although the trip is beginning to wind down, we still have plenty of time to enjoy and learn about Singapore and how it navigates challenges between the U.S. and China.

So far in Singapore, we have immersed ourselves in the local culture primarily through the country’s incredible food at “Hawker Centers.” Hawker Centers are small food hubs all around the city that house local vendors serving the most incredible, cheap delicacies money can buy. When not engaging in food diplomacy, we are visiting Singapore’s premier think tanks, companies, and U.S. representatives in the region. These meetings are giving us insight into the Singaporean take on U.S. Foreign Policy in the region, as well as the different strategies Singapore uses to ensure that it remains relevant in the global community. Due to its small size, Singapore relies heavily on its role as an economic force and its role as a mediator between the Great Powers. It plays this part through coordinating summits (like the Trump-Kim meeting) and the Shangri-La Dialogue. I look forward to continuing to get the Singaporean perspective on the Great Power rivalry (and the food)!