pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

Singapore’s Bilateral Relations with the United States and China: A Historical Refresher

Issues & Insights Vol. 21 SR4, pp. 42 – 47

About this Volume

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.- Singapore Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, through the U.S. Embassy Singapore. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Singapore relationship. Between September 2020 and August 2021, cohort members engaged with senior experts and practitioners as they developed research papers addressing various aspects of the bilateral relationship.

The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective organizations and affiliations. Pacific Forum’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its staff, donors and sponsors.


Singapore maintains amicable relations with both the United States and China. This paper examines the early development of Singapore’s bilateral relationships with both great powers, and argues that Singaporean foreign policy is neither ideological nor in service of world powers but rather pragmatic and self-oriented for survival. Due to this analysis, this paper recommends the United States do the following in support of its relationship with Singapore: 1) pursue a more active diplomatic engagement; 2) establish a U.S.-ASEAN Investment Promotion Committee in Singapore; 3) invest in the next generation of Singaporean and American leaders; 4) leverage core competencies to deepen collaboration on engaging third countries.

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Jarret Fisher is devoted to a values-based U.S. foreign policy. She studied finance, international business, economic policy, and international relations at the graduate level. Jarret is a proud alumna of the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps, and a U.S. Department of State Exchange alumna, having participated in a legislative exchange in South Korea and the ALLI Indo-Pacific Summit in Japan. Jarret’s research interests include nuclear nonproliferation, ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific, the history of Singapore’s economic development, and meaningful youth participation in policymaking.

Photo: U.S. President Gerald R. Ford Meeting with Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore in the Oval Office, August 5, 1975.  Source: The U.S. National Archives / Public Domain.