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A Preliminary Survey of CCP Influence Operations in Singapore

出版物:《中国概况》卷:19 期:13

Publication: China Brief Volume: 19 Issue: 13

作者:Russell Hsiao

By: Russell Hsiao

2019年7月16日 09:33 AM

July 16, 2019 09:33 AM

新加坡中国文化中心位于市中心皇后大街217号,于2015年开放。(资料来源:2015年11月新加坡中华人民共和国 CCC)

The PRC-sponsored Singapore China Cultural Center located at No. 217 Queen Street in the city center, which opened in 2015. (Source: PRC CCC in Singapore, November 2015)

编者按:我们的前一期刊载了一篇由 Russell Hsiao 撰写的文章,其中介绍了中国共产党(CCP)在日本培养影响力的机构和方法(2019年6月26日,《中共在日本影响力运作初步调查》)。在这期杂志中,萧先生利用新加坡最近的地方研究,继续这一系列的研究,并提出了一个分析的手段,党寻求获得对公共话语和政府政策在这个东南亚国家的影响力。

Editor’s note: Our previous issue contained an article by Russell Hsiao that profiled institutions and methods employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to cultivate influence in Japan (A Preliminary Survey of CCP Influence Operations in Japan, June 26, 2019). In this issue, Mr. Hsiao continues this series by leveraging recent local research in Singapore, and presenting an analysis of the means by which the CCP seeks to gain influence over public discourse and government policy in that Southeast Asian nation.




As China rises on the world stage, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly utilizing all levers of influence to achieve and secure its national objectives along its periphery and globally. To achieve and secure those objectives, the CCP is employing political warfare. 1 Political warfare is a set of overt and covert tools used by governments to influence the perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors of other governments and societies in order to achieve national objectives. 2 Set within a broader discussion about how CCP engages in influence operations in Asia, Singapore presents a valuable case study for understanding the means by which the CCP engages in influence operations that target a majority ethnic-Chinese state.

正如新加坡外交官 Bilahari Kausikan 指出的那样,就国与国之间的关系而言,中国政府实质上以类似于其他政府的方式参与影响行动(海峡时报,6月28日)。然而,中共是一个列宁主义政党,它使用统一战线的策略和组织代表了一种整体的方法来影响完全不同于其他国家的行动(中国简报,5月9日)。新加坡长期以来一直是中共统一战线关注的目标,城市当局打击中共宣传的历史可以追溯到20世纪50年代和60年代,当时中华人民共和国(PRC)领导人试图向东南亚输出共产主义革命(新加坡国家档案馆,未注明日期)。

As noted by Singaporean diplomat Bilahari Kausikan, in terms of state-to-state relations, the Chinese government essentially engages in influence operations in a fashion similar to other governments (Straits Times, June 28). However, the CCP is a Leninist party, and its use of united front tactics and organizations represents a holistic approach to influence operations wholly unlike other countries (China Brief, May 9). Singapore has long been a target of CCP united front attention, and the city authorities have a history of combating CCP propaganda that dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when People’s Republic of China (PRC) leaders sought to export communist revolution to Southeast Asia (National Archives of Singapore, undated). 3


The primary avenues for CCP influence operations in Singapore are found in business associations, clan associations, and grassroots organizations. CCP propaganda efforts in Singapore that flow through these organizations aim to promote the narrative of a “greater China”—one that includes all people of Chinese descent, irrespective of nationality—and therefore, one in which ethnic Chinese persons of all nationalities should show affinity and loyalty towards the Chinese state represented by the PRC. The CCP’s fundamental purpose, therefore, is to impose a Chinese identity on Singapore so that it will align more closely with the PRC’s expanding interests.


Overseas Chinese Relations and Civic Organizations in Singapore


Identity politics (and the use of overseas Chinese) as a tool of PRC foreign policy was documented in a 2018 U.S. Congressional study (USCC, August 2018), and this practice was institutionally reflected by the integration of overseas Chinese affairs into the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) in early 2018 (China Brief, May 9). The strategy of outreach to Chinese and Asian identity was recently further reinforced by the PRC’s first “Conference of Dialogue on Asian Civilizations,” held in Beijing in May 2019 (CDAC, May 2019).

新加坡总人口580万,其中华人占76.2% 。尽管如此,新加坡是一个多种族、多文化的国家,有着复杂的身份认同。自新加坡建国以来,这个国家的身份认同一直被新加坡的统治精英作为一个关乎生死存亡的问。由于这个城市国家的大量华裔人口,中华人民共和国寻求利用与新加坡的民族关系来建立影响力,新加坡人经常从中华人民共和国公民那里听到的一句话是:「新加坡是一个必须忠于中国利益的中国国家」(《海峡时报》,2016年10月16日)。

Singapore has a total population of 5.8 million, 76.2% of whom are ethnic Chinese. Despite this, Singapore is a multiracial and multicultural nation with a complex identity, and since the nation’s founding identity has been closely managed as an existential issue by Singapore’s ruling elites. 4 Because of the city-state’s large ethnic Chinese population, the PRC seeks to leverage ethnic ties to Singapore for purposes of building influence, and a statement commonly heard by Singaporeans from citizens of the PRC is: “Singapore is a Chinese country that must cleave to Chinese interests” (Straits Times, October 16, 2016).


Although there is a sizeable Chinese community, this community is well-assimilated into Singaporean society. While ethnic enclaves still exist, particularly among new immigrants, these ethnic-geographical enclaves are not influential as collective political interest groups. Older generations of Singaporean-Chinese tend to have a stronger affinity for China; among these older generations, CCP appeals are frequently directed towards supporting ethnic pride and Chinese nationalism. Older Singaporean-Chinese also tend to have higher levels of membership in clan associations and similar civic organizations based on ethnic Chinese identity (see below).


Clan Associations

宗族协会在新加坡和其他有华人移民社区的国家有着悠久的历史。19世纪初期,新加坡开始建立宗族联合会,以促进来自其他国家的华人之间的团结和亲属关系。基于地方或亲属关系(姓氏),300多个地方和姓氏氏氏族社团在新加坡正式注册,并作为保持华人身份和亲属关系意识的重要机构(新加坡氏族社团联合会,未注明日期)。宗族和姓氏协会是中华人民共和国开展外联活动的重要环节:通过与中国革命历史遗址的文化交流、演唱共产主义歌曲的音乐会、」胎权」村庄 / 家访等。这些交流由中共统一战线组织经营的地方办事处批准。

Clan associations have a long history in Singapore and in other countries with Chinese immigrant communities. Clan associations were started in the early 1800s in Singapore to foster unity and kinship among Chinese people when they arrived from other countries. Based on locality or kinship (surname), more than 300 locality and surname clan associations have been officially registered in Singapore, and serve as key institutions for preserving a sense of Chinese identity and kinship (Singapore Federation of Clan Associations, undated). Clan and surname associations are important links through which the PRC conducts outreach: through cultural exchanges to revolutionary history sites in China, concerts for singing communist songs, “birthright” village/home visits, and so forth. These exchanges are endorsed by local offices operated by CCP united front organizations. 5


Cultural Associations

年轻一代的新加坡华人普遍对中华人民共和国缺乏认同感,对加入宗族协会、庙会和类似的民间组织兴趣不大。因此,中共需要不同的战略来对付新加坡的年轻一代,最常见的呼吁是经济机会和与中国的文化亲和力。2012年在新加坡成立的中华人民共和国中国文化中心,简称 CCC。新加坡文化中心是在世界各地设立的20个文化活动、青年交流、教学和培训中心之一(新加坡文化中心,未注明日期)。中华儿童基金会的作用是在中国和新加坡之间建立一个共同认同的更广泛努力的一部分。

The younger generation of Chinese-Singaporeans generally feels less identification with the PRC, and has less interest in joining clan associations, temple associations, and similar civic organizations. The CCP therefore needs different strategies for dealing with the younger generation of Singaporeans, and the most common appeals are to economic opportunities and cultural affinity with China. One institution for promoting the latter is the PRC’s China Cultural Center (Zhongguo Wenhua Zhongxin, 中国文化中心), or CCC, which was established in Singapore in 2012. The Singapore CCC is one of 20 such centers established around the world to conduct cultural activities, exchanges for youth, and teaching and training (PRC CCC in Singapore, undated). The CCC functions as part of a broader effort to create a common identity between Chinese China and Chinese Singapore.

值得注意的是,新加坡政府在2017年建立了一个类似的新加坡华人文化中心。本组织的愿景是「一个充满活力的新加坡华人文化,植根于一个有凝聚力的、多种族的社会」(新加坡 CCC,未注明日期)。在中心开幕式上,李显龙总理发表讲话,强调新加坡的华人在历史和身份上与中国的华人有很大的不同(新加坡总理办公室,2017年5月19日)。

Of note, a parallel Singapore Chinese Cultural Center was established by Singapore’s government in 2017. The vision of the organization is “a vibrant Singapore Chinese culture, rooted in a cohesive, multi-racial society” (Singapore CCC, undated). At the opening of the center, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long made a speech emphasizing how Chinese in Singapore are very different from the Chinese in China, in terms of both history and identity (Singapore PM Office, May 19, 2017).


Influence Levied Through Business Associations


Business associations in Singapore (as is often true in other countries) act as the most powerful lobby for Chinese interests. In Singapore, these organizations include the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Singapore Business Federation. The PRC exerts leverage over Singapore businessmen by making it harder for them to get contracts, licenses, permits, loans, etc.—especially in the real estate sector, where Singaporeans hold significant investments in China. 6


Two incidents from recent years demonstrate how business associations have lobbied the Singapore government on behalf of pro-PRC positions. In 2004, the Singaporean business community exerted immense pressure on the Singaporean government when Prime Minister-elect Lee Hsien Loong made a “private and unofficial” visit to Taiwan in July that year before he was officially sworn in in August. At the time, PRC officials threatened to delay talks on a free-trade agreement with Singapore as a result of Lee’s Taiwan visit (AFP, August 26, 2004).


A second example was seen in 2016-2017, in which nine Singaporean military armored vehicles used for training in Taiwan were impounded during passage through Hong Kong. Singapore-PRC relations were strained by the incident, but Singaporean Chinese businessmen, who held ties with government officials through grassroots associations and other channels, reportedly provided “feedback” to the government to avoid stirring up trouble with China by continuing to train in Taiwan (SCMP, December 3, 2016; SCMP, January 24, 2017).


Media Influence


Singapore is a multilingual country that includes Chinese (along with English, Malay, and Tamil) among its officially-recognized languages, and Mandarin is widely spoken and used. The daily circulation of Singapore’s largest Chinese-language newspaper, Lianhe Zaobao (早报), is about 200,000 copies, and the number of readers in Singapore is estimated to be about 620,000. The newspaper’s website, Zaobao.com, is also read in the PRC, where it attracts more than 5 million daily page views. The local Zaobao.sg, which is mainly for readers in Singapore and readers from outside mainland China, enjoys 500,000 page views per day and 1.4 million unique visitors per month (Zaobao, undated).

随着新加坡从台湾媒体机构中被视为亲大陆的广播公司(如 TVBS、 CTI 和 EBC)购买内容,新加坡的华语节目已经通过台湾的中介机构受到中国的影响。然而,中文节目在新加坡仍然不是很受欢迎,基于当地采访的轶事证据节目表明,年轻一代似乎不像他们的长辈那样对中文节目感兴趣。

Chinese-language programming in Singapore has become subject to PRC influence through intermediaries in Taiwan, as Singapore purchases content from broadcasting companies (such as TVBS, CTI, and EBC) that are considered to be pro-PRC among Taiwan media outlets. However, Chinese programming is still not very popular in Singapore, and anecdotal evidence based on local interviews suggest that younger generations do not appear to be as interested as their elders in Chinese programming. 7


The Singaporean government exerts tight controls over the media, which limits PRC influence. Most print and broadcast media outlets in Singapore are not necessarily state-owned, but they are heavily state-controlled. Yet, given the economic dependency between local Chinese-language media companies and the PRC market, this raises questions as to whether local outlets (such as Zaobao) are selling news to Singapore, or selling news to markets in the PRC—and whether they might self-censor as a result.




The fundamental purpose of Chinese propaganda and influence operations in Singapore is to impose a Chinese identity on Singapore. Towards that end, China is using cultural organizations, clan associations, business associations, and youth programs to engage in influence operations in Singapore. Beijing’s vehement reaction to Singapore’s response in support of the South China Sea ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (Today, July 12, 2016; Straits Times, August 6, 2016) reflect its broader and innate belief that, as a majority ethnic-Chinese country, Singapore should understand and support the Chinese position. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s policies of blurring the line between “Chinese people” (huaren, 华人) and “overseas Chinese” (huaqiao, 华侨), intensified propaganda, and new laws related to overseas Chinese have all caused heightened concern in Singapore. Singapore’s government views identity as an existential issue, and is likely to resist CCP efforts to make inroads in this area.


While policy experts in Singapore appear to be keenly aware of and are taking precautions to resist CCP influence operations, there are some contradictions in Singapore policies, and natural alignments of interest between Singapore’s government and the PRC: for example, mutual concerns that the West’s calls for universal values could weaken their political authority. However, this does not mean that Singapore is necessarily pro-Beijing, or that its policies result from CCP influence operations. In fact, Singapore’s resilience to foreign influences may be attributed in part to the government’s tight media controls, which restrict access to Singapore’s information environment. Similar factors of social management also restrict channels for foreign interference through either political parties or civil society organizations.


Growing strategic competition between the United States and China in the region presents complications for Singapore’s foreign policy and defense policy. Security experts in Singapore assess that their options are narrowing as both countries are putting more pressure than ever before on Singapore to pick sides. As U.S.-China competition takes center stage in global politics, the country’s delicate balancing act, and its internal questions of identity, will come increasingly under strain.

罗素·萧是全球台湾研究所的执行主任,目前是东京大学亚洲研究所的访问学者。他是檀香山太平洋论坛的助理研究员,也是2018-19年美国国家民主基金会的 Penn Kemble 研究员。作者要感谢许多匿名受访者的见解。这篇文章所表达的观点是提交人自己的,并不是要反映他的任何附属组织的立场。

Russell Hsiao is the executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute and currently a visiting scholar the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Advanced Asian Studies. He is an adjunct fellow at the Honolulu-based Pacific Forum and a Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy for 2018-19. The author would like to thank many anonymous interviewees for their insights. The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own, and are not intended to reflect the positions of any of his affiliated organizations.



1. 国防情报局,《中国军事力量2019:战斗和胜利力量的现代化》,第99页。

1. Defense Intelligence Agency, China Military Power 2019: Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win, p.99.


2. 乔治·凯南将政治战争定义为「在一个国家的指挥下运用一切手段,而不是战争,以实现其国家目标。」。这种行动既是公开的也是隐蔽的。它们包括诸如政治联盟、经济措施… 和『白人'宣传等公开行动,以及诸如秘密支持『友好'外国势力、『黑人'心理战、甚至鼓励敌对国家的地下抵抗等隐蔽行动。」 参见: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1945-50intel/d269。

2. George Kennan defined political warfare as “the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives. Such operations are both overt and covert. They range from such overt actions as political alliances, economic measures …, and ‘white’ propaganda, to such covert operations as clandestine support of ‘friendly’ foreign elements, ‘black’ psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.” See: https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1945-50Intel/d269.

3. 中国的影响力和美国的利益:提高建设性的警惕(胡佛协会,2018),第174页。Https://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/research/docs/chineseinfluence_americaninterests_fullreport_web.pdf.

3. Chinese Influence and American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance (Hoover Institution, 2018), p. 174. https://www.hoover.org/sites/default/files/research/docs/chineseinfluence_americaninterests_fullreport_web.pdf.

4. 谭:「重新接触中国性:新加坡国家建设的政治、经济和文化需要」,《中国季刊》,第175期(2003年9月)。

4. Eugene K. B. Tan, “Re-Engaging Chineseness: Political, Economic and Cultural Imperatives of Nation-Building in Singapore,” The China Quarterly, No. 175 (Sep. 2003).

5. 作者在新加坡的采访。

5. Author’s interviews in Singapore.

6. 作者在新加坡的采访。

6. Author’s interviews in Singapore.

7. 作者在新加坡的采访。

7. Author’s interviews in Singapore.


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(2019-07-16,机译)华府智库「詹姆士敦基金会」(Jamestown Foundation)发表研究报告,指出中共政府透过商会、文化组织、宗乡会馆、媒体等途径,引导新加坡社会舆论和政策走向,扩大影响力。



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