- How does Singapore view China's more assertive behavior and increased U.S.-China competition, and how is its government responding?
- How should the United States work with Singapore to counter Chinese influence and protect common interests in the Indo-Pacific region?
This report on Singapore is part of a project examining the perspectives of U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific as they formulate and implement their responses to China's more assertive foreign and security policy behavior in the region and to a more competitive U.S.-China relationship. Singapore views its relations and partnership with the United States as essential to its security policy. It sees the U.S. regional presence as playing an indispensable role in ensuring its ability to navigate a regional security environment that is increasingly complicated by China's growing influence and more-assertive Chinese behavior. At the same time, China is Singapore's most important trading partner, and Singapore aims to maintain a stable relationship with China even as it resists Chinese influence and interference.
The U.S.-Singapore relationship is a success story: Singapore has been and remains a strategic partner for U.S. diplomacy and security efforts in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region more broadly. To sustain this success in ways that will buttress U.S. competitive advantage will require a steady hand at the helm of the relationship, strengthening ties across economic and security domains while recognizing the importance to Singapore of stable relations with and growing economic ties to China. Singapore's geographic location astride the Straits of Malacca, its outsize influence in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the military support afforded the United States by infrastructure and access in Singapore make investments in U.S. attention and treasure both necessary and worthwhile.
- Singapore has deep regional engagement focused on its role as a small but influential economic and political player in ASEAN. Although Singapore promotes "ASEAN centrality" in regional economic, diplomatic, and security policy issues, it also has expanded engagement on multiple fronts with actors outside ASEAN's membership.
- Over the past decade, there have been significant changes to the regional security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. An evolving web of relationships is taking shape, moving the region beyond the traditional "hub-and-spoke" system of bilateral security alliances with the United States.
- Singapore is involved as a key security partner for the United States but also as an independent actor seeking a wide variety of security ties and relationships. It has significant partnerships with Australia and India and increasing security ties with China and Japan.
- Singapore's engagement in the region creates opportunities and challenges for the United States. Opportunities continue to outweigh the challenges, specifically for the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force to work with Singapore and with regional partners in new and innovative ways, both operationally and using soft-power tools and approaches.
- Pacific Air Forces and the U.S. Air Force should incrementally increase the current trajectory of both security assistance and operational interface (training, exercises, arms sales).
- Pacific Air Forces and the U.S. Air Force should work with Singapore on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other traditional and nontraditional security activities.
- The Joint Force should further enhance U.S.-Singapore cooperation in the areas of space, advanced cyber, electronic warfare, and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
- The Joint Force should strengthen U.S.-Singapore cooperation on research and development of advanced capabilities, such as artificial intelligence.
- The U.S. government should continue to encourage Singapore's growing cooperation and engagement with other U.S. allies, such as Australia and Japan, and emerging partners, such as India and Indonesia.
- The U.S. government should deliberately seek opportunities to work with Singapore to counter Chinese political interference and influence operations.
- The U.S. government should work with Singapore to publicly highlight China's problematic behavior in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
Table of Contents
Singapore in the Context of U.S.-China Competition
Singapore's Diplomacy: Maintaining a Delicate Balance
China's Economic Importance to Singapore
Singapore Defense Relations: Heavily Favoring United States but Not Snubbing China
Outlook and Options
Detailed Framework Variable Coding
The research reported here was sponsored by Brig Gen Michael P. Winkler (PACAF/A5/8) and conducted within the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.
Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.