CCP conducts influence campaigns in Singapore
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is using political warfare worldwide to secure its goals, and Singapore offers a valuable case study to understand how the CCP employs overt and covert tools to do so, according to new research.
The CCP uses cultural organizations, clan associations, business associations, youth programs and more to engage in influence operations, according to Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute.
“The fundamental purpose of Chinese propaganda and influence operations in Singapore is to impose a Chinese identity on Singapore,” so that Singapore will coalesce with China’s interests, Hsiao wrote in a July 16, 2019, report titled “A Preliminary Survey of CCP Influence Operations in Singapore,” for the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based research and analysis institution.
“CCP General Secretary President Xi Jinping’s policies of blurring the line between ‘Chinese people’ and ‘overseas Chinese’ intensified propaganda, and new laws related to overseas Chinese have all caused heightened concern in Singapore,” Hsiao wrote in the report.
“Singapore’s Government views identity as an existential issue and is likely to resist CCP efforts to make inroads in this area,” he concluded.
Singapore is a multiracial and multicultural nation, even though 76.2% of Singapore’s total population of 5.8 million are ethnic Chinese, Hsiao said in his report.
After Singapore media, such as The Straits Timesnewspaper, published details of Hsiao’s report, theChinese Embassy in Singapore responded on July 19, 2019, that the report allegations are “groundless and distorted from truth,” the Channel News Asia website reported.
Substantial evidence exists, however, that supports Hsiao’s report that the CCP engages in significant influence operations in Singapore as well as other Southeast Asian nations.
United Front Work Department (UFWD) proxy groups are active in Singapore among other Southeast Asian nations, Dr. Amy E. Searight, senior advisor and director, Southeast Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), testified in April 2018 before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
The groups include the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, which advocates against the recognition of Taiwan, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, which works to build positive relations with other countries to improve their opinions about China, and the China Overseas Friendship Association, she said.
The China Zhi Gong Party also contributes to influencing domestic attitudes toward China and other issues in Southeast Asian countries. The CZG is a UFWD-led party that focuses heavily on outreach to overseas Chinese individuals and communities, particularly through its Overseas Friendship Committee, she added.
Although many governments employ influence operations, Hsiao wrote in his report, China uses “united front tactics” with a “holistic approach” to the operations unlike other countries.
“Business associations in Singapore act as the most powerful lobby for Chinese interests,” according to Hsiao. The CCP controls Singaporean businessmen by making it harder for them to get contracts, licenses, permits and loans in China, especially in the real estate sector, where Singaporeans hold significant investments in China, he explained.
In her testimony, CSIS’ Searight cited a revealing example of the CCP’s holistic approach to coercion. After Singapore conducted a joint training exercise on Taiwan in 2016, Chinese customs officials in Hong Kong impounded nine of the Singapore Armed Forces’ armored troop-carrying vessels that had been used in the exercise while en route via a commercial shipper to Singapore. Soon after the seizure, China’s Foreign Ministry formally demanded that Singapore “strictly abide by the one-China principle” and abstain from “any official contacts with Taiwan, including military exchanges and cooperation.” (Pictured: One of nine armored vehicles belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces that Chinese customs officials seized in Hong Kong in 2016 and held at the port into early 2017 before returning.)
The Global Times, a CCP-run news organization, then called Singapore a “small country” that “used to know its boundaries,” and warned that if Singapore did take a more “balanced” approach, Beijing would modify its policies to “profoundly impact Singapore’s economy.”