Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


In a commentary in The Straits Times on 29 January, Chairman of the Centre for International Law at NUS and Ambassador-at-Large at the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs Professor Tommy Koh reflected on the relationship between Singapore and Britain over the past 200 years. Prof Koh believes it is time to honour Major-General William Farquhar — whom he described as the pragmatist to Stamford Raffles’ visionary — for his contributions. Prof Koh added that while the British laid the foundation by leaving behind a rich legacy in the form of the English language, the civil service and welfare among others, it was the Singapore government that built on it to “get the job done”. The relationship between Singapore has changed over the past 200 years, Prof Koh concluded — from ruler and ruled to one of two equals.

Chairman of the NUS Middle East Institute Mr Bilahari Kausikan’s thoughts on China’s foray into the Middle East as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) were featured in an article in The Straits Times on 30 January. While the BRI is “potentially game-changing”, he pointed out that it is still largely a collection of projects and not a strategy and advised that it should be seen in a balanced way. However, Mr Kausikan also noted potential stumbling blocks for China in the Middle East, which include China’s relative inexperience in dealing with the Middle East, scepticism of China’s intentions, and the increasing regional rivalries that China could find itself caught between. The retired diplomat was sharing his views ahead of an upcoming conference by the Middle East Institute on the BRI to be held on 11 and 12 February.

Another article in The Straits Times on 31 January highlighted studies by NUS and Duke-NUS Medical School which revealed that just cutting down on white rice may not lower the risk of diabetes. Data for both studies were taken from the ongoing Singapore Chinese Health Study. In the first study, the research team found that there was no link between quantity of white rice eaten and risk of Type 2 diabetes when other variables such as age, sex and body mass index were controlled for. The risk was actually affected by what was used as a substitute for white rice. For example, participants who substituted white rice with meat or dishes high in salt and oil would have more risk than participants who substituted it with whole grains. In the second study, the team identified 165 commonly eaten food and beverage items and used established diet quality indices to determine the overall “quality” of a diet. The results showed that people who had a higher quality diet — more whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables — would be less likely to develop diabetes compared to people who ate a less quality diet — more processed and red meats, sugary drinks and sodium.

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