Generally I find RAND research outputs really insightful and useful. But sorry to say that this report is afflicted by certain stereotypes, and some wishful thinking about areas for future cooperation.…
THREAD 1/: As of this writing, Singapore’s economic performance is sluggish, and national elections in 2020 marked a
transition to a new generation of leaders. Given these considerations, Singapore is undertaking
an effort to boost its ties with Beijing (p.12)
2/: Since the upheavals in 2016, SG has already undertaken efforts to mend ties with Beijing, and recent moves represent a continuation, not a "boost" as asserted by the authors. It also implied the new-gen leadership is inclined towards policy shift. This is incorrect.
3/: "China pushes the idea that Chinese culture must be tied to the PRC politically, and several interviewees indicated that there are an increasing number of people in Singapore who buy the Chinese narrative." I do question how these interviewees can determine the increase.
4/: Put aside the sample size of how many interviewees the authors consulted in the course of their research, the next question is whether such views offered by the said interviewees is based on hard data, anecdotes, personal experience or "gut feel" are reliable at all.
5/: In any case, I'll refrain from making direct conclusions simply based on the data available. Otherwise, it does give a misleading impression of the state of SG society, especially the ethnic Chinese, and its perspectives towards this cultural aspect of broader ties with PRC.
6/: "One interviewee noted that Singapore exercises a “passive-aggressive” approach to PRC influence efforts, conveying messages back to Beijing that make it seem like
Singaporeans are not worried about Chinese activities, while they are in fact a source of growing concern." p.22
7:/ PM Lee's speech in Sep 2017 counts as "passive-aggressive" approach? I don't think so. It's as explicit in its language and tone as it can get. And coincidentally, this speech was made not long after the Huang Jing incident.…
8/: "The fact that the U.S. ambassador post in Singapore has been vacant since January 2017... such diplomatic disconnects might hamper broader efforts by the United States to keep track of and, if necessary, counter Chinese influence operations in Southeast Asia." p.31
9/: This observation just doesn't sound right to me. SG is playing an out-sized role in US counter-PRC influence ops in SE Asia? I'm puzzled.
10/: "This balancing act has worked reasonably well for Singapore so far, but it could become increasingly difficult to maintain if U.S.-China competition continues to heat
up over the next five to ten years." p. 33. Seems to discount the durability of agency exercised by SG.
11/: "Other domestic political factors could come into play as well... Singapore is undergoing a transition to a new generation of leaders, a significant historical development that could influence Singapore’s ability to insulate its foreign policy from domestic politics..."
12/: "...The potential for a somewhat greater amount of domestic political contestation in Singapore, compared with previous periods during which the ruling People’s Action Party has dominated politics..."
13/: "... could complicate Singapore’s efforts to maintain continuity in areas such as external relationships and defense policy." (p. 35). Well, this assumes too much change and less continuity across demographic changes in SG.
14/: There's less public debate on defense spending and external relationships than on issues that are closer to the hearts and minds of individuals, such as national service. Generally, older and younger generations of SGeans support consistent and continued defense investments.
15/: And this observation in the report left it unexplained how this generational shift will influence government policies towards US and PRC. Perhaps the authors could take a little more time to speak to more SGeans, especially the younger ones, to probe deeper.
16/: "Deliberately seek opportunities to work with Singapore to counter Chinese political interference and influence operations." I'm not too sanguine whether this is going to even fly. Honestly. But it sounds like a non-starter.
17/: "Work privately with Singapore to counter China’s narrative regarding behavior in the SCS and elsewhere... Other efforts should involve shining light on areas in which the Chinese are seeking opportunities to interfere with political and academic choices and freedoms..."
18/: "...and considering concrete actions to mitigate regional problems created by some BRI projects." I wonder the authors know how deeply embedded SG interests are in BRI, both at govt and private levels. In any case, we're already cooperating in this.…
19/: In conclusion, I'll have expected a much better report from RAND on SG and how it posits itself in the PRC-US rivalry, in terms of certain observations made and the policy recommendations which can be more realistic and doable. END

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14 Nov
THREAD: Regarding such claim, we should of course exercise some caution and seek to ascertain its veracity. One way is PRC official publication of the circumstances of this test and outcomes, or Pentagon confirmation. Either way may not be forthcoming.…
1/: as an engineer by training, I’m aware there are practical limits to systems. It’s not as simple as launching a missile and expecting it to hit. A host of physical factors has to be accounted for. Even more complicated is having a ballistic missile hit a moving target.
2/: let’s assume the PLA has over the years honed its ISR capabilities focusing on the near seas, which is less ambitious compared to a global strike complex, there’s after all the possibility that the PLA manages to minimise the intervening physical factors to an accurate shot.
Read 11 tweets
24 Aug
THREAD: so much to unpack in one sentence: "Worsening China-US ties are not good to overseas Chinese communities, considering that Chinese Singaporeans make up 75 percent of its population." H/t: @SCS_Disputes…
Singaporean Chinese, not Chinese Singaporean. Nation first, ethnicity second. This is what defines Singapore as a multi-ethnic society, where national identify binds diverse ethnicity and cultures together. And this has been drilled in primary school since my times at least. 1/
The allusion that "Chinese Singaporeans" are "overseas Chinese communities" is outright misleading and patronizing. This label perhaps applies to my grandparents' generations, since they were emigres who directly came to colonial SG from China (back then PRC didn't exist). 2/
Read 9 tweets
10 Jul
Just witnessed it myself after I fulfilled my citizenry rights: long queues with minimal enforcement of social distancing, disposable gloves dispensed with just to speed up the process. In summary, holding an election amidst a pandemic is simply careless and opportunistic.
I’m not a political scientist who specialises in Singapore’s politics but as a concerned citizen born and bred in this tiny island city state, I’ll like to offer some observations. A long thread to share with those of you who may be keen on SG general elections yesterday. 1/
GE2020 results as shown. It’ll appear that PAP got an almost clean sweep of all 93 seats in the unicameral parliament, which might have fulfilled PM Lee’s call for a strong mandate amidst the pandemic crisis. But there’s much more than it meets the eye here. 2/
Read 33 tweets
29 Jun
Short thread: Recall despite the Asian Financial Crisis in 1990s and global economic recession in 2008, Singapore persisted with its defense programmes. Pandemic and its economic uncertainty now puts this "neither feast nor famine" policy in question.…
Some useful materials here from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's SAF Day 2020 interview can be found here, including transcript of the chat, and accompanying materials on key training initiatives and defense acquisition programmes.… 1/
"Even for 2021, next year, full recovery remains uncertain.
MINDEF/SAF are taking measures to cut cost where we can without compromising critical operations or reduction in SAF’s medium and long-term capabilities. We will continue to be prudent in our spending," Ng said. 2/
Read 9 tweets
15 May 19
EVENT THREAD: International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) 2019, jointly organised by the Republic of Singapore Navy, RSIS, and with support from Experia.
RADM Lew Chuen Hong, Chief of RSN, at his opening remarks for #IMSC2019, highlighting the long history of use of the seas and oceans by mankind as a global commons. But he also opined that “shared spaces” within this domain also brought about friction between nation-states.
RADM Lew emphasised the origins and contemporary practice of UNCLOS as a framework of rules and norms for the international community to peacefully use the seas and oceans. #IMSC2019
Read 73 tweets
21 Feb 19
THREAD: in the wake of the DW interview with Singapore defense minister Dr Ng Eng Hen there’s been some well-considered criticism amongst my foreign peers and colleagues about what he said. I want to offer my personal thoughts. See the said DW interview:…
1/ Singapore as a small country lacking geostrategic depth, surrounded by much bigger neighbours, is a geographical constant that we can’t change. We live with this reality, and make the best out of it. Ultimately, bottom line is that our national interests count.
2/ in pursuing our national interests, we ought to consider all opportunities and costs in our strategic calculus and seek a fine if often precarious balance between such competing and often contradictory factors, especially concerning foreign and security policy issues.
Read 24 tweets

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