He added that this is a “difficult position to take”.

“I also make it clear that we are not taking sides, but we will take positions depending on the issue, whether it’s climate change, digital economy, cybersecurity, pandemics. Singapore will take position on issues according to our calculations or what is in our long-term national interests.”

But as Singapore is deemed a relevant stakeholder, it means that Singaporeans are subject to information and persuasion campaigns, which comes through social media, and messaging platforms, said Dr Balakrishnan.

“This is something which Singaporeans need to be aware of,” he said.

They should also bear in mind that Singapore will “stay relevant only as long as we can maintain our independence, our space to pursue our own long-term, enlightened national interest”.

“What I hope for is a Singaporean public that is well informed, that understands the geostrategic forces that are playing out in this time and space, understands our own national interests. And we don’t inadvertently get sucked into other people’s propaganda or other people’s agendas,” he said.

Singapore is now in “uncharted territory” with the rise of China even as the US remains a leading superpower, and there are new challenges as well as much opportunity, the minister highlighted.

“If we have that confidence, that wherewithal … the next few years will be exciting, exhilarating,” he said.

“It’s a very good time to be alive. It’s a good time to be Singaporean. And the challenges that are going on for both domestically and globally will be great, especially for our young generation.

“All these things keep me up awake at night, but it’s borne out of excitement and exhilaration, not fear and paranoia.”