Singapore is predominantly Chinese but is not part of China; and Singaporean Chinese culture is not the same as Chinese culture.

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During the 19th century, Chinese migration to Southeast Asia was a common occurrence. Many were unskilled and migrated from China to Southeast Asia for jobs during the colonial period of the region. … Today, descendants of early Chinese migrants make up the bulk of the population of Chinese Singaporeans.
Chinese nationals in Singapore – Wikipedia

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If you were the Singapore Government, would you accept any move by your Chinese population towards identification with China first, and Singapore second?

In September, the Institute for Strategic Research at France’s Military College, or Irsem, released a report on how Singapore’s multi-ethnic society made it vulnerable to China’s influence – though at the same time, the presence of a single, national Singaporean identity also made the city-state resilient to such threats.

The government has sought to build a Singaporean national identity based on multiracialism, equality and meritocracy. English is the country’s official working language.

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Justin Ong
Political Correspondent

  • Published Oct 16, 2021, 6:30 pm SGT

SINGAPORE – Growing international tensions amid the Covid-19 pandemic have laid bare Singapore’s susceptibility to foreign influence, heightening the risks of social polarisation.

Against this backdrop, Chinese clan associations here must do their part as a core member of society, said the new president of the apex body of these organisations on Saturday (Oct 16).

Mr Thomas Chua, the fourth president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), added: “We must shoulder responsibility, stand firm, exert a positive influence, unite the different ethnic groups, build up social cohesion, as well as promote positive exchange and interaction amongst citizens, so as to conquer the challenges that stand in our way.”

Mr Chua, a former Nominated MP, was delivering an acceptance speech in Mandarin after being sworn in as the fourth president of the apex body of Chinese clan associations here.

The event was held at the SFCCA’s premises in Toa Payoh.

One key area of work for Mr Chua and his new council will be in strengthening cooperation with other ethnic groups.
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“Singapore’s multiethnic and multicultural identity has helped to shape a unique societal culture, but equally has the potential to divide us as well,” he noted.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who also gave remarks in Mandarin at the event, said Singapore’s racial harmony was not easy to come by.
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In September, the Institute for Strategic Research at France’s Military College, or Irsem, released a report on how Singapore’s multiethnic society made it vulnerable to China’s influence – though at the same time, the presence of a single, national Singaporean identity also made the city-state resilient to such threats.

The report also pointed to the role of clan associations here in preserving Chinese identity and kinship, something also previously flagged by other think-tanks as a means of aligning locals with China’s expanding interests.

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The New York Times

Worries Grow in Singapore Over China’s Calls to Help ‘Motherland’

By Amy Qin

  • Aug. 5, 2018

阅读简体中文版閱讀繁體中文版

SINGAPORE — Growing up in Singapore, Chan Kian Kuan always took pride in his Teochew heritage — the dialect, the cultural traditions and the famous steamed fish. But after visiting his ancestral village in Teochew, in Guangdong Province, China, and seeing the progress there, he became truly proud to be not just Teochew, but also Chinese.

“It’s very messy. We are Chinese, but we are Singaporean, too,” said Mr. Chan, vice president of the Teochew Poit Ip Clan Association in Singapore. “When China becomes stronger, we feel proud. China is like the big brother.”

As a young country made up mostly of immigrants, Singapore has for decades walked a fine line between encouraging citizens like Mr. Chan to connect with their cultural heritage and promoting a Singaporean national identity.

But there are growing concerns here that a rising China could tip that carefully orchestrated balance by seeking to convert existing cultural affinities among Singaporean Chinese into loyalty to the Chinese “motherland.”

Confident in its fast-growing political and economic clout, China has become increasingly assertive in its efforts to appeal to the vast Chinese diaspora to serve the country’s national interests and gain influence abroad. Already, there has been evidence of the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to manipulate political activity among Chinese populations in countries like Canada, the United States and Australia.
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And with ethnic Chinese constituting nearly 75 percent of Singapore’s population of 5.6 million, some scholars and former diplomats worry that this island nation could be an especially tantalizing target for the Chinese government’s influence efforts.

“For us, it is an existential issue; the stakes are extremely high,” said Bilahari Kausikan, a former permanent secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and one of the most outspoken voices in the country on the subject of Chinese interference.

“China’s rise is a geopolitical fact that everyone must accept,” Mr. Kausikan said. “But it’s a very small step in my mind from cultural affinity for China to the idea of Chinese superiority. We are only 53 years old. It’s not guaranteed that every Singaporean Chinese would not be tempted either consciously or unconsciously to take that step.”

Last month China’s ambassador to Singapore took the rare step of publicly rebutting recent remarks made by Mr. Kausikan in which he raised an alarm about what he called China’s covert “influence operations.”

“We uphold the principles of peaceful coexistence and champion global fairness and justice,” the ambassador, Hong Xiaoyong, wrote in an op-ed in The Straits Times, an English-language newspaper. “We oppose the big bullying the small and interference in others’ internal affairs. This is what China has said, and this is also what China has been doing.”

“China respects Singapore’s achievements in maintaining racial and religious harmony,” he added. “It has no intention of influencing Singaporeans’ sense of their national identity and will never do so.”
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Mr. Kausikan and others are also concerned about China’s subtler influence efforts in Singapore, including appeals to sentimental “flesh and blood” ties to China.
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“My cellphone is on 24 hours a day,” Hong Guoping, then head of the United Front in the Xiang’an district in Fujian Province, told a group of Singaporean Chinese affiliated with that district in 2013. “My fellow countrymen can call me at any time. I’m happy to serve everyone.”
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Some scholars have highlighted what they call a worrying trend that has seen China increasingly blurring the distinction between huaqiao (Chinese citizens overseas) and huaren (ethnic Chinese of all nationalities).

At an overseas Chinese work conference last year, President Xi Jinping stressed the need to bring together people of Chinese descent around the world — up to 60 million ethnic Chinese in more than 180 countries — to enjoy the “Chinese dream.”

“The realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation requires the joint efforts of Chinese sons and daughters at home and abroad,” said Mr. Xi, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.

Scholars say the focus on strengthening ties with overseas Chinese signals a major shift away from Beijing’s previous, more hands-off approach to diaspora relations.
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In some Western countries, China has already successfully mobilized local groups like Chinese businessmen, Chinese students and Chinese-language media, using them as proxies to rally against anti-Chinese views or to whip up support for Beijing’s line on contentious issues like the Dalai Lama or Taiwan.

Frequently, the result has been a negative and often xenophobic anti-Chinese backlash. Many overseas Chinese have said they are now being unfairly subject to a cloud of suspicion simply for being associated with China.

“When you start reaching out to people on the basis of race and blood, it becomes unacceptable to other governments,” said Wang Gungwu, a former chairman of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore. “On the other hand, Beijing thinks it is natural to do so. And that is where the conflict lies, however unintended the consequences may be.”
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Karoline Kan contributed research from Beijing.

Follow Amy Qin on Twitter: @amyyqin.

For the whole article:

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Singapore particularly vulnerable yet resilient to Chinese influence operations: French report

Justin Ong
Political Correspondent

  • Published Oct 2, 2021, 5:00 am SGT

SINGAPORE – A terrorist attack targeting the ethnic Chinese and triggering intercommunal unrest in Singapore, serving as a pretext for China’s intervention. Beijing’s use of Malaysian-based intermediaries to conduct disinformation operations against Singapore, to exploit the city-state’s closeness with its neighbour.

These are examples of how Singapore’s structural vulnerabilities could be targeted and exploited by China, a French think-tank said in a report released last week.

The study by the Institute for Strategic Research at France’s Military College, or Irsem, also observed that Singapore has been able to resist and defend against Chinese influence “skilfully”, with the counter-narrative of a single national identity.

“Singapore, which has an ambivalent relationship with China, a mixture of both closeness and distrust, has several characteristics that make it a particularly vulnerable target and, at the same time, particularly resilient to Chinese influence,” it said.

The 646-page document, titled “Chinese influence operations: A Machiavellian moment”, describes in French how China is ramping up attempts to infiltrate and coerce states around the world through a mix of overt and covert means.

The Chinese embassy in France on Sept 22 responded by slamming the report as a “stigmatisation operation” against China.

Authored by Chinese politics and foreign affairs experts Paul Charon and Jean-Baptiste Jeangene Vilmer, the Irsem report contains case studies on Taiwan, Sweden, Canada and Singapore.

The chapter on Singapore noted that its primary vulnerability was the very nature of its multiethnic and intercommunal society – both an asset and a lever that could easily be used by an ill-intentioned third party.

Irsem said the main narratives conveyed by Beijing’s influence operations include how Singapore:

– Is a Chinese country that is part of and should be loyal to “Greater China”

– Is a small state that cannot afford to be arrogant and alienate the Chinese giant

– Lacks a strong leader since the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong underestimating the importance of ties with Beijing

– Is too close to the United States, which is the past while China is the future and it is in Singapore’s interest to align with Beijing; and

– Should not get involved in the South China Sea debate.

The widespread use of English and Chinese here also makes Singapore all the more penetrable by external actors, said the report.

“Its dependence on imports for all essential goods; its strained relationship with Malaysia – itself vulnerable to radical Islam and more or less aligned with Beijing – are other vulnerabilities likely to be exploited,” added Irsem, citing known precedents of Malaysian Chinese groups producing disinformation content against Taiwan.

The report pointed to the role of Chinese clan associations here in preserving Chinese identity and kinship, a phenomenon previously flagged by other think-tanks.

It estimated at least 20,000 Chinese naturalised as citizens each year, excluding permanent residents, and described this flow as a way of maintaining a Chinese majority for a community with the lowest birth rate.

“These Chinese newcomers, who maintain their networks in mainland China, are an additional vector of influence,” said Irsem.

Younger Singaporeans, meanwhile, are primarily influenced by Beijing through its economic and professional opportunities: the report pointed to chambers of commerce and business associations offering scholarships to study in China, and the presence of a Confucius Institute at Nanyang Technological University.

These institutes teach Chinese language and culture at several locations around the world and have been accused by the US of promoting propaganda.

Irsem also said China could rely on influential “spokespersons” in Singapore.
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Today, even though the majority of Singapore’s population is ethnically Chinese, “the fact is that they feel overwhelmingly Singaporean”, said the report.

“Despite Beijing’s efforts, there is very little cultural penetration,” Irsem added. “Chinese influence on the Chinese-speaking media is relatively limited because of Singapore’s control over all media.”
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The Irsem publication is the latest of several reports highlighting Singapore as a natural target for Chinese influence. In June, experts told The Straits Times that such operations would have been amplified lately, including through propaganda campaigns against US-made Covid-19 vaccines and in favour of China’s Sinovac.

Last month, citing the threat posed to political sovereignty and national security, the Singapore Government proposed the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act or Fica. It did not explicitly name any state actors targeting Singapore.

The draft law aims to combat hostile information campaigns and local proxies. It has attracted controversy ahead of its scheduled debate in Parliament next week – drawing disagreement and proposed amendments from the Workers’ Party, and prompting a parliamentary petition submitted by Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai calling for its passage into legislation to be delayed.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/politics/spore-particularly-vulnerable-yet-resilient-to-chinese-influence-operations

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