China uses cultural centre in S'pore to engage in ‘influence operations’: US report

The China Cultural Centre used to promote narrative of "greater China".

Joshua Lee | July 18, 2019, 08:04 PM

Situated along Queen Street is a 10-storey building with the words 中国文化中心.

This is the China Cultural Centre that opened in November 2015.

Occupying over 1,300 square metres, the China Cultural Centre (CCC) aims to "introduce Chinese culture and arts to Singapore and to enhance the understanding and friendship between the two peoples."

Promoting PRC propaganda

Now, it appears that the China Cultural Centre is used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage in "influence operations", according to an American think-tank.

The Jamestown Foundation published a report on July 16, 2019 detailing how the CCP uses different avenues, including the China Cultural Centre, to promote the narrative of a "greater China".

This area 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.

According to the report, the CCP aims to impose a Chinese identity that closely aligns with the interests of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The Jamestown report explained that cultural associations like the China Cultural Centre tries to emphasise cultural affinity to attract young Singaporean Chinese.

The Centre uses cultural activities, overseas exchanges, and teaching and training opportunities to that end, said the report.

Clan associations are also another avenue for the CCP's outreach purposes.

These associations conduct cultural exchanges to history sites, villages, and concerts which play Communist songs.

According to the Jamestown report, these exchanges are endorsed by local offices operated by CCP united front organisations.

Lastly, the People's Republic of China has leverage over Singapore businessmen.

They do this by withholding contracts, licences, permits, and loans.

According to the report, this is especially prevalent in the real estate sector which has a sizeable amount of Singaporean investment.

The report highlighted a couple of incidents in the past which illustrates how business associations lobbied the Singaporean government on behalf of the PRC.

In 2004, Singapore businessmen exerted pressure on Lee Hsien Loong when he made an unofficial visit to Taiwan before he was sworn in as Prime Minister.

In 2016 to 2017, Singaporean Chinese businessmen reportedly advised the government to stop training in Taiwan so as to avoid trouble with PRC.

Singapore opened her own Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre in May 2017 to promote local Chinese culture and nurture a greater appreciation of our multi-cultural identity.

At face value, it seems to be a push back against the China Cultural Centre.

The Jamestown report noted that Prime Minister Lee emphasised at the opening of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre that the Chinese in Singapore are different from the Chinese in China.

The report ended with a rather dire warning that Singapore's "delicate balancing act, and its internal questions of identity, will come increasingly under strain" as US-China competition intensifies.

You can read the report here.

Top image via.