The Traditional Connections In Cities Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

"The cities which in the late twentieth century we call world cities are beginning to lead their lives rather distinct from those of their territorial states again, and entities such as Singapore and Hong Kong may even suggest that city states can at least in some ways be viable social forms" (Hannerz, 1996).

The above quote was taken from "Traditional Connections" written by Hannerz in 1996. In this book, Hannerz examines the role of world cities in relation to contemporary globalization. He believes that both Hong Kong and Singapore symbolize emerging new forms of cultural life and he what illustrates termed cities of the "global ecumene"(Hannerz, 1996).

Singapore is an island with 63 surrounding islets, located at the Southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. The island of Singapore is separated from Malaysia and Indonesia by the Straits of Johor and Riau Islands. Previously what was a quiet fishing village began to thrive under British rule over a century and a half ago. Once it started to thrive, Singapore attracted many immigrants from its surrounding countries. These immigrates from Southern and Eastern Asia came is search of opportunities and as a result settled in on the island, and as a result Singapore's population is multi-ethnic. Not only is Singapore a nation, but it is also a city-state and more recently, it is also referred to as a world city.

Singapore received its independence from Britain in 1965, and since then it began developing into a contemporary modern nation state. For the 37 years, proceeding its independence under the rule of the People's Action Party (PAP) little changed. Simultaneously, Singapore began to advance, what started off as an export orientated economy developed into an innovative industrial economy which is currently perceived as a "wannabe" world city today. During this time, not only did the government market Singapore as a global city, but it strived to advance and preserve its national identity among its citizens.

During the 1980's and 1990's many of the Asian states began to distinguish not only their nation cultural values but also a sense of identity. Singapore was one of the most vocal nations when it came to Asian values. Following this, various questions arouse as well as challenges defending the authenticity of the Asian values. At this time, Asian was regarded as a region which was swiftly catching up and in some cases was even surpassing the western world when it came to the economic development and success. This success of the Asian region was referred to as the "Asian Miracle" which identified the closing stages of America and Europe's economic and cultural supremacy.

As the 1990's approach things were about to change drastically for the Asian regions, it was the beginning of the economic crisis and as a result the Asian values debate came to an end. However, Singapore moved towards globalization instead of pursuing the battle of Asian values. The issues raised over the previous decade stimulated the concerns which were faced with globalization. In Singapore, globalization was the focus point and thus this raised uncertainties as to how nation states were dealing with the progression of globalization.


Globalization is a process which has been evident since 1980 by the transformation of many major cities in the world. This progression of globalization has given the opportunities to such cities to become more independent, but has also given possibilities of these world cities including London, Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore the chance to develop links leading to global networks. According to Sassen, global cities are host to significant transnational corporations and financial, technological and consulting services. However, one must question the outcome of the globalization process. It is evident across several world cities, these cities are all advancing in the same direction. Many similarities exist in today's world cities -city centres, waterfront developments and skylines. Should world cities follow the same course? Is it appropriate that all cities have identical features or is it important for such cities to be unique? These are questions which are raised by the globalization process. Globalization is an international process which is evident in more places than others and so its past or present impacts differ for each world city.

Singapore has been faced with its own issues of globalization; therefore many questions have to be asked. The Singaporeans have significant queries related to the challenges of globalization including the question of national identity and belonging, self-proclaimed global city status and what is the overall experience of living in a globalized city. These are all relevant issues which feature in the process of globalization and it is from this that three important impacts arise in the city state of Singapore and they include:

Going Global:

One of the policy outcomes in relation to globalization was The 1991 Next Lap -the purpose of this strategy was aimed at "going global". Over a thirty year period Singapore experienced numerous structural changes including -moving away from its initial Entrepot economy, followed by a low-tech manufacturing and trading economy and finally a financial and business services economy for the 1980's. The final phase of change was so Singapore could compete at an international level. This policy identifies Singapore's positive moves towards transformation and integration of the city state at the global economic level. As the three phases evolved configuration transformation and redefinition of the economy, the government required to locate Singapore as a strategic transnational node within the Asian region. The Singaporean government encouraged national businesses to establish in regional locations to expand and so this advanced Singapore's economy on an international basis.

National Identity and Belonging:

During the 1990's the Singaporean government turned its attention to globalizing the city state to create a sensation of home among its citizens. Singapore has been unable to mature as a place which has a national identity and the sense of belonging. It is believed that this sense of belonging is individually orientated. The Singaporean Government have more so focused on the economic development of the state as opposed to creating a state which is bursting with an atmosphere created through national identity and belonging on a personal level. The government have delivered what they perceive to be their interpretation of this "national identity and belonging" through providing it citizens with a material stake in the country. Unfortunately, it is the emotional aspect of the nation that has not yet been delivered to their citizens, and thus these people are more likely to emigrate to nations who can provide the emotional aspect.

Social Integration:

One of the noteworthy approaches taken by the Singaporean government was their constructive approach to social integration. This approach consisted of the government striving to shape the spatial patterns of the various groups in society. By undertaking this pro active approach, the government felt that this would elevate the potential problem of social polarisation caused globalization. The state has a vast impact on the housing schemes -the citizens living in dwellings which are regulated and managed by the government. An approach such as this leads to the government establishing the nature and allocation of housing, while creating a sense of ownership. This approach has determined that there is both an ethnic and social mix of citizens in each of the housing development, as the state took this approach this eliminated social polarisation and gentrification.

The key issues addressed above how Singapore has evolved and dealt with certain issues since the process of globalization. It is apparent that the above are connected and thus have evolved from the progression of globalization which has been a worldwide issue. Globalization is a process which consists of negative and positive impacts all of which are evident on a global basis. Each city experiences more prevailing issues than others all of which reflect the international process of globalization. However, it is apparent that globalization has had both positive and negative impacts on the city state of Singapore.

Successful City

Successful Cities can be interpreted differently by all individuals. So what is a Successful City? In order for a city to be a "Successful City" it is required to satisfy four components. These four factors include -economic success, places where people want to live, civic collaboration, positive image and pride in the city. Many of today's global cities satisfy these four components, therefore leading such cities -New York, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong and Singapore to be referred to as a "Successful City". Once these elements have been satisfied the global cities encompass certain drivers to maintain their city at this successful standard. Singapore appears to be a successful city, so what drivers have led it to becoming one of these triumphant global cities? In total, there are ten drivers required to satisfy and create a successful city and they include the following -diversity, good governance, skilled workforce, quality of life, connectivity, physical renewal, culture of innovation, business-friendly culture, distinctive brand and the city-region relationship. However, in Singapore the following drivers are very evident and they include -quality of life, connectivity and skilled workforce.

Quality of Life:

It is believed that the quality of life in Singapore is one of the best cities in the world to live, work and play. This cosmopolitan city attracts many individuals from Asia as well as other locations across the world. And so this has lead to a diversity of different cultures, lifestyles and religion. This city state of Singapore has lots to offer including safety, green areas, affective and affordable public transport, not forgetting its world class health services and superior education systems. All of the above lead to a good quality of life providing for its citizens in the best possible way. The social scene in Singapore is thriving with its growing leisure and sport scenes along with its lively entertaining and night life scene and its dining and hospitality. These fundamental factors identify how the quality of life in Singapore is of such a high and international standard. One can say that it is the above characteristics that identify the growing success of the quality of life obtainable in Singapore, and may be considered as the best in Asia.


Singapore has become one of Asia's busiest international hubs due to its prime location on many air and sea routes. This has opened up Singapore's international connectivity with other global and international cities across the world. The Maritime and Port Authority are one of the leading global port groups and they oversee Singapore's Port. It is believed that approximately one fifth of the world's container shipments pass through the port of Singapore. The Port Authority of Singapore has connections with 600 ports in 123 countries, including 200 shipping lines and daily sailings to the major international ports. The port has won many awards including the "Best Container Terminal (Asia)" and "Container Terminal Operator of the Year". Changi Airport was developed in 1981 and is currently managed by Changi Airport group. Since 1981, this airport has evolved to high international standards and is one of the sixth busiest international airports in the world, with three terminals. This airport caters for 90 international airlines, which serves 200 cities in over 60 countries. The annual footfall of Changi Airport is approximately 37 million and is one of Singapore's largest shopping locations. This footfall along with the daily sailings identifies the strength of Singapore's international connectivity.

Skilled Workforce:

The Singaporean workforce comprises of various multi-cultural, highly skilled educated and productive people. As English is one of the most widely spoken languages and which is also the language of business, the government have encouraged the importance of speaking good English so it can succeed as a global city. A large proportion of the population are engineering based and today this is expanding along with the amount of skilled technicians. As there is an open immigration policy, this has benefitted and improved the Singaporean workforce. There are also substantial training and scholarship programmes emerging through the government with the support of the many industry partners and education establishments. By creating new educational programmes this ensures that the workforce is prepared for the future. Also this has ensured that the workforce is one of the best educated in the world. The government's investment in education has lead to the formation of an extremely highly skilled and educated workforce.

These three elements have lead Singapore to becoming one of the most successful global cities in the world. This global city gives the impression that the ten drivers for a successful city exist consequently this implies that none of the drivers need to be developed. Singapore appears to be a successful city without any flaws however, one can argue this point. How can a city exist without flaws? One of the main elements which leads to a successful city and which reflects a city is the planning process.

Many sectors are involved in the planning process and these include -Urban Redevelopment Agency (URA), the Economic Development Board (EDB) and finally the private sector. These particular bodies are requested for their input into government established committees. It is the URA who collaborate the views of committees and ministries of government, it must be noted that the EDB are involved in the agenda setting role. Once this procedure is complete, the URA interprets these policies into land-use and development terms. It is the government's strong state control that is responsible for the land and the strategic land-use plans. A scheme which is widely in use in Singapore is the "Sale of Site" system -this method has been at the heart of the close collaboration in urban development. This was first implemented in 1967 and entails the acquisition of sites by the government, under the Land Acquisition Act of 1966. Once the government have acquired the land it is consolidated and then sold on to private developers. At one point, the government along with its agencies owned approximately 80 percent of its lands through applying the Sale of Site method. As the government were the biggest stake holders of land, they were able to influence the type of development, location and scale, time and the phasing of land release -leading to a strong connection between the economic agenda and the physical development of the city. This strong hold over land which the state possesses, guided the state in the direction of development through property ventures which was assisted by government linked companies.

With the government and state having such an influence on how the city is developed one begins to questions how successful is Singapore? The three drivers discussed above are evident in the city and so they do exist, but on what level are they successful? The city-state seems to be ruled by the government and private sector so how can these people determine the needs of their citizens? These are questions which can only be answered by the Singaporean government as it is them who currently determine the future role of the city state. It is apparent that local democracy plays an insignificant role in the overall decision-making, however as the state has avoided corruption this has facilitated its authenticity. The government obtain the citizens support through permitting economic prosperity along with high quality, subsidized, social provisions which include housing and public housing. It is true these methods and no other that the state of Singapore achieves the citizens support. By using such methods, the nation is unable to have their voices and options' heard and implemented. This emphasizes that the city cannot be truly successful without the public's support, obtained in a rational manner and not by providing what the government and state assume the citizens require.

Distinctive Characteristics

Each city is distinctive, whether it is the location, building design, multicultural background or surroundings. As Singapore is a nation state, this is a very distinctive quality that not all nations can relate to. A nation state is "a sovereign state of which most of the citizens or subjects are united in, also by factors which define a nation, such as language or common descent". This alone classifies as a distinctive characteristic of Singapore, nevertheless there are many diverse fundamentals which categorize a distinctive city. In Singapore various descriptions are visible and these include -land reclamation, green zones, high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. It is these elements that highlight the characteristics of Singapore and define it as a city.

Land Reclamation:

The land reclamation process was a result of the necessary provisions to promote Singapore as a Central Business District (CBD) -this was a crucial part of the planning process. Initially the CBD was located on the coast and so it was possible to expand the area required to strengthen the existing CDB through land reclamation. It was during the 1970's when the first land reclamation process took place recovering 106 hectares. Once this was achieved it opened the land to international investment, encouraging world class companies -ranging from the six-star Ritz Carlton Hotel, to shopping and an international base for leading companies. This reclaimed land also attracted world-class architects to design the unique architecture that is evident in this particular district assisting in the urban marketing. A second phase of land reclamation has occurred, reclaiming 360 hectares at Marina South. This extension of the CBD is targeted at promoting integrated working, living and recreation area to lead to a good quality of life.

Green Zones:

Many of the green zones are links which are formed are aimed at providing connections between settlements and along transport corridors. These green zones are associated with attracting businesses to Singapore -such green spaces include golf courses, beaches and pleasant settings for housing. Since the 1970's the objective has been to designate Singapore as a Garden City through a tree planting programme as well as placing emphasis on the attractive road corridors and small parks. It is believed that this has guided the green zones in the direction of a man-made and controlled environment. It is estimated that Singapore has 2,340 hectares of parks and green areas. During the 1970's a Garden City Action Committee was formed to maintain 1 hectare of green space for every 1,000 people. By 2010 it is expected that 245 hectares of green corridors will connect the green zones and nature reserves on the island. This Garden City is well maintained and it is attributed to this, that Singapore has a vast amount of green zones.

High-rise Buildings and Skyscrapers:

The skyline of Singapore is comprised of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, with a large majority located at downtown. There are approximately 4,300 completed high-rise developments in the city state. The first development of high-rise buildings began in 1939 with the completion of the Cathay Building. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's Singapore experienced a building boom which led to rapid industrialisation, during which several skyscrapers and high-rise developments were completed. This skyscraper building boom continued in the 1990's and 2000's. Also, the development of Marina Bay has also encouraged the development of a number of skyscrapers. Singapore's skyline is unique and consists of a variety of both high-rise and skyscrapers.