Singapore has always been a multiracial society with a strong Chinese presence. However, many Singaporeans are now becoming increasingly wary about their fellow Chinese citizens. Mainland China’s economic and military growth is said to be influencing Singaporean Chinese to veer slowly to favor the Chinese communist regime.
Reigniting Chinese ethnic pride
To understand how threatening the strengthened Chinese identity is to Singapore, one only needs to heed the concerns of the retired top diplomat, Bilahari Kausikan. He has time and again said that China was using ethnic pride to make Singaporean Chinese lean toward Beijing.
Channel NewsAsia quotes Kausikan as saying: “China doesn’t just want you to comply with its wishes, it wants you to… do what it wants without being told… When the Chinese try to impose a Chinese identity on Singapore, we must resist, because modern Singapore is based on the idea of being a multiracial country.”
Chinese ambassador to Singapore Hong Xiaoyong had dismissed the statements, saying that they were not “fair and right.” However, security experts warn that several Singaporean Chinese are increasingly being affected by China’s power, starting to view themselves as the superior race in the country.
Internet forums are rife with examples of Singapore Chinese nationals citing one example after another about how some of their relatives had taken a strong pro-China outlook, even at the expense of the autonomy of Singapore.
One Redditor describes how his dad “went from a Singapore patriot to a Chinese one after he got a smartphone and cable TV,” while adding: “My grandparents who were actually born in China were less enthusiastic about China when they were alive. My dad is the opposite. He’s thoroughly born and bred in Singapore and is Chinese educated.”
What many Singaporean scholars and diplomats find disconcerting is the fact that Chinese ethnicity makes up about 75 percent of the country’s population. This makes a large section of the population very vulnerable to Beijing’s brainwashing strategies.
And one way China has been targeting Singaporean Chinese nationals is through exchange programs. Mostly dubbed as “roots-seeking camps,” they are usually targeted at young Singaporean Chinese. The programs are fully funded by Beijing and the youngsters who participate go through a process of learning Chinese history, calligraphy, and even singing communist songs.
The Malaysian trade tactic
China is also heavily investing in infrastructure projects in Malaysia. And one specific project that has Singapore on the edge is the Kuala Linggi International Port (KLIP) on the west coast of Malaysia. Funded under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project of Beijing, KLIP seeks to take away a slice of Singapore’s oil traffic.
“Due to Singapore’s attitude towards the mainland, China has to be cautious and diversify. To protect its own interest, its ships have to cut down their over-reliance on Port of Singapore… In fact, being close and friendly towards China, Malaysia is benefiting from China’s investments. Its economy will be lifted by all these investments and projects, if all goes well according to plan,” The Star Online quotes an analyst.
Many trade experts rightly view such Chinese investments in Malaysia as a tactic to scare Singaporeans into submitting to them. Beijing is threatening to take away the shipping business from Singapore and give it to Malaysians if Singaporeans do not side with the Communist Party.
However, most people in Singapore believe that they will be able to meet this Chinese challenge and retain the port supremacy they currently hold. What they hope for is that Chinese Singaporeans do not fall for the nationalistic jingoism of Beijing and remain strongly committed to their Singaporean identity.