Singapore Politics - Insights from the Inside

Thursday, January 11, 2007 

Short Story of Three Emperors

Well, everyone is well acquainted with this blog writing on Singapore Politics (as suggested by the title of this blog…duh…). Perhaps it might be interesting to write on sometime totally not related to Singapore politics and yet, has much relevance to local politics. This is a true story about the lives of three emperors, in certain country and in certain period of history. Maybe in the end, you might be able to draw parallels with local politics but I stressed that this article has “nothing” to do with local politics. For convenience, let’s just name the first emperor to be Emperor K, the second emperor to be Emperor G and the third emperor to be Emperor Loong.

Emperor K
Emperor K was the longest reigning emperor in the country’s history. He was born and raised in an era political instability, turmoil and power struggle, brought about by decades of war and conflict. His ideology of politics was largely shaped by this period of conflict. Although he seemed destined for greatness and leadership, his path to secure the throne was not a smooth one.

In the early stage of his life, Emperor K was overshadowed by some one (let’s name him to be Official O) more influential and powerful than him. On the surface, Emperor K seems to be leader but in actual fact, Emperor K can’t function without Official O. Official O grew in support amongst the people and other officials. Many dubbed him as the “real emperor” behind the throne. However, Official O underestimated the young and crafty emperor. While appearing to be unison, Emperor K was scheming to oust Official O from power. After a fierce underground political power struggle, spread over several years, Emperor K mustered enough power to oust Official O and condemn O into the depths of prison.

With O out of sight and power, Emperor K can finally have absolute power to manage the country. As a leader, he has a good foresight in choosing and managing talented Ministers. However, the dark side of him is his authoritarian and sometimes despotic nature. He has low tolerance for inefficiency, incompetence and corruption. In the later years, he is wary of succession problems (which will be mentioned later) and distrust most people beside him.

Emperor K was accredited for many great accomplishments. From a war-torn country, he led the country into unimagined prosperity within two decades, making the country a shining beacon of economic prosperity. However, prosperity came at a price in the form of absolute obedience from his people. Anyone who steps out of line will be punished severely. The people were often reminded of the warring past and treasured the peace and prosperous times. As such, there were very few rebellions and the majority chose to remain silent and obedient.

Unlike many other rulers of his time, information of Emperor K was plenty. Emperor K wrote his own thoughts and words in his biography as records and advice to his future generations. In his biography, he portrait himself as a decisive leader never as an authoritarian, and justified his actions by the delicate and sometimes unenviable situation he was in. From his self-portray, he describes his succession dilemma in searching for someone in his mold, the strong and uncompromising. His intended successor was to be groomed from young, as he wanted his heir apparent to possess all the qualities that he has and needed to be emperor. However, the heir apparent was not the officials’ or the people’s choice to lead the country due his character flaw. Officially, the heir apparent was removed based on health reasons. Instead, an unlikely prince was crowned the Emperor G.

Emperor K’s was always remembered as the founder of the empire, although he wasn’t the first emperor of the dynasty. But nonetheless, he was praised, despite his despotic tendency, to be the best and most brilliant of emperors in the country’s history.

Emperor G
In the early reign of Emperor G, he was plagued with rumours about his succession and never really full legitimized himself until his later years. One of the many reasoning for his appointment was that Emperor K adored Prince Loong, the apparent successor to Emperor G. As it was not appropriate to skip a generation, Emperor Y was appointed as his successor to the throne. Some many, Emperor G was very much a seat-warmer emperor for Prince Loong. Prince Loong was Emperor K’s favourite as he felt that Loong's mannerism and ways was very close to his own. Despite these succession rumours, Emperor G reigned for 14 years.

When Emperor G was crowned, Prince Loong was immediated promoted to Prince of the Blood (1st Rank) or the equivalent of a deputy prime minister in the modern days. For Emperor G did not allowed the position of Crown Prince, everyone expected Prince Loong to be the successor, especially when he deputise the emperor when Emperor G was out of the capital.

Emperor G was a tough but very hard-working ruler. G continued an era of continued peace and prosperity as he cracked down on corruption, waste, and reformed financial administration. In particular, he took great focus in curbing and suppressing other writings he deemed inimical to his regime or rumours that spoke ill of him. Another major focus of his adminstration was dealing with a hostile neighbour north of his empire. But he was never able to fully resolve the matter during his reign.

Having battled the rumours of succession problems prior to his ascension, he was determined not to repeat this mistake for his future generations. Thus, he developed a unprecedented system that would allow a smooth transition and identification of the next emperor.

Emperor Loong
When Emperor Loong ascended to the throne, there was never any doubts that he was the chosen one. Since his birth, Emperor K set his sights for Loong to ascend to the throne. Emperor G was merely the “seat-warmer” for 14 years, for Loong to attain maturity and prevent any accusations of going against traditions given his young age.

Many draw parallels of Emperor Loong to Emperor K, but never to the emperor “sandwiched” between them, Emperor G. Loong was like a replica in mannerisim and thinking to K. Contrastingly, Emperor K’s character was molded through hard and tough time during his era while Loong’s character was shaped by the influence and idolation of K.

Loong harvested the fruits of K’s & G’s labour and enjoyed the economic prosperity and social stability. With his country stable and prosperous upon taking over the reins, Loong can afford to concentrate on foreign policies and used his empire’s clout to solve territory issues that Emperor G could not. During Loong’s reign, the empire was at its largest and economically most vibrant. In his early years on the throne, Loong corrected much of the stagnation and strict administrative stiffness inherited from Emperor G’s policies, injecting the country with renew vigor and energy.

Politically, Loong’s era was as strong, if not, stronger than the times of Emperor K & G. But his personal life was a different story. His life was marred by the tragic loss of his favourite empress and son. Since then, he was never same man as he was. However, later in his life, he was attracted to a younger civil servant (let’s name this person to be Official Ho). Official Ho was originally a lowly civil servant, but with the favour of Loong, Ho rose to become the controller of the empire’s wealth. Once securing the Emperor's favour and approbation, Ho enjoyed almost complete freedom of actions. At the peak of his career, Ho personally controlled most if not all of the country’s treasury. This set the beginning of the empire’s degeneration. In addition, the expensive mega-structures by Loong’s later reign exhausted the country’s wealth.

Loong’s reign was in fact longer than K’s but out of deep respect to K, he retired before exceeding K’s tenure. Later generations look to Loong with mixed feelings, as he was brilliant in his early years and careless in his older years. In the end, most would agree that his years was the “watershed” of the empire.

Any guesses on who Emperor K, Emperor G and Emperor Loong are?

The Idealist

  • Thrasymachus
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