Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s awkward handshake with United States President Donald Trump has made the rounds online and has also drawn ridicule and criticism. Some say the Singapore PM’s seemingly effeminate pose as he extends his hand is a sign of weakness or deference to a bigger power. This, of course, does national pride no good, they say.
While one would not read too much into what is a split-second pose caught by the ever-present cameras of the media, it is also true that PM Lee’s awkward handshake with Trump is not the only time it has happened.
Here are some photos of PM Lee’s handshake with some other world leaders and officials:
In international politics, the handshake is seen as an important gesture, commanding respect and stature. Donald Trump’s handshake, for example, has been analysed by experts and found to be one which is of a dominant personality.
But how did handshaking begin, and what was its original purpose?
Historical facts are murky on this but one belief is that it originated from ancient Assyrians.
“According to the Assyria Times, the ritual dates back at least to 1800 B.C., when Babylonian kings would clasp the hand of a statue of a god, in order to allow the god to “hand over” his authority—ensuring, in other words, a peaceful transfer of power. Ancient Greek monuments feature carvings of gods, soldiers, and couples shaking hands. Greek and Roman handshakers also used the gesture to shake each other down for hidden weapons, and to prove they weren’t carrying any themselves.” (Source)
Now, before we go slamming PM Lee for his awkwardness when expressing the gesture, do remember that our prime minister meets and have met many world leaders and dignitaries throughout his more than 30 years in politics. So, there are bound to be one or two (or a few) such instances caught by the camera. It would be rather unforgiving if we read too much into them and criticise him.
After all, other leaders have their embarrassing moments too, such as Japanese PM Abe and the late US president, Kennedy:
Here are some photos of PM Lee doing it right, as he represents us to the world: