Chan Heng Chee

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Chan Heng Chee in 2011

Professor Chan Heng Chee, DUBC (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: Chén Qìngzhū), DUBC, was the Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the United States from July 1996 to July 2012.

During her tenure as ambassador to the U.S., bilateral relationship improved tremendously. In May 2003, Singapore and U.S. signed the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA), the first FTA that U.S. entered into with a Southeast Asian country. Both countries also enhanced their ties in areas of defence and security.

Academic career[edit]

Chan received her education at the University of Singapore, (M.A. in Political Science, 1966), and Cornell University, (M.A. 1967). In 1974 she received her Ph.D. from the University of Singapore. Her thesis has the title: The Dynamics of One-party Dominance: A Study of Five Singapore Constituencies.[1]

She was previously the Executive Director of the Singapore International Foundation and served as Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Chan was also the founding Director of the Institute of Policy Studies.

Chan was a member of the International Advisory Board of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, a council member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, and a council member of the International Council of the Asia Society in New York.

She has received a number of awards, including Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Letters from the University of Newcastle (Australia) in 1994, and from the University of Buckingham (UK) in 1998.

She is Professor of Political Science on secondment at the National University of Singapore.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Chan Heng Chee meet with U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen during Lee's visit to the U.S. in 2000.

Chan served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1989 to 1991. During this time, she was concurrently accredited as the High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico.

She became Ambassador to the United States in 1996. At the time, she was the first woman ambassador from an East Asian country to be assigned to the United States. Chan expressed surprise at her appointment, noting "I'm antiestablishment and was a bit of a dissident before I was appointed ambassador. It came as something of a shock to me when I was offered the ambassadorship because I was highly critical of government in a society that is not used to being critiqued." [2]

Like Tharman Shanmugaratnam (the current Finance Minister), Ho Kwon Ping (a former journalist dissident and now the chairman of the Banyan Tree leisure group), and other former political critics, she is part of a small group of well-educated dissidents who have subsequently been appointed into high profile positions in the PAP Government, or who have otherwise become part of the establishment.

In 1998 she received the Inaugural International Woman of the Year Award from the Organization of Chinese American Women (OCAW), and Singapore’s first "Woman of the Year" award in 1991. Chan received Singapore's Meritorious Service Medal in 2005 and the Distinguished Service Order, the highest National Day Award, in August 2011.

She left her post as US ambassador on 23 July 2012, and was replaced by Ashok Kumar Mirpuri.[3]

During October 2012 in relation to a discussion on the choice Asian nations may have in terms of supporting China or the United States she was quoted as saying "The United States should not ask Asian countries to choose. You may not like the results if you ask countries to choose.” [4]


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