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The divisiveness of Chinese identities in Singapore

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pIn July 2019, the Jamestown Foundation, an American think tank, published a report accusing China of imposing a Chinese identity onto Singapore through propaganda and influence operations. In this article, I argue that the Jamestown report is factually inaccurate and is itself an influence operation aimed at engendering distrust towards China. The re-discovery of a Chinese cultural identity by some Chinese Singaporeans—from Lee Kuan Yew to Nathan Hartono—is fuelled not by China’s clandestine influence operations, but by an intrinsic desire to mend ruptures in one's cultural heritage. Historically, the Chinese in Singapore have discarded or re-adopted their Chinese cultural identities depending on the degree to which contact is kept with China. When contact with China diminishes, successive generations of Singapore Chinese inevitably cease to identify China as a cultural motherland. When contact with China resumes, the Chinese in Singapore have frequently become divided, split into those who culturally identify as Chinese and those who do not. Since the 1978 reform and opening-up of China, the restoration of contact between China and Singapore have led to a rekindling of interest amongst Chinese Singaporeans in their cultural identities. This rekindling yields three major consequences. Firstly, Chinese Singaporeans may become further divided in terms of their cultural identity, with de-Sinicised, monolingual English speakers on one extreme and re-Sinicised, cultural Chinese on the other. Secondly, successive generations of re-Sinicised Singaporeans may grow up imbibing China’s cultural exports, thereby becoming less distinct from their mainland Chinese counterparts. Thirdly, Singapore’s government will remain incentivised to continually emphasise the distinctness of the Chinese Singaporean identity from Chinese elsewhere.</jats:p>



47 Language, Communication and Culture, 4702 Cultural Studies

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International Communication of Chinese Culture

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC