The Favourable Partner: An Analysis of Lianhe Zaobao’s Representation of China in Southeast Asia

Daniel R. Hammond

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Abstract:  Singapore has, since its founding, had a critical role regarding Southeast Asia’s interaction with China. The city-state has acted as both an enthusiastic promoter of closer ties with China and also as one of the prominent supporters of a hedging strategy regarding the involvement of extra-regional powers in Southeast Asia. To date there has not been any substantial analysis of how China and Southeast Asia are represented in the local media. Given the ongoing significance of news media as a means to communicate ideas and agendas, to both online and offline audiences, this gap is notable. This article will contribute some initial findings based on an analysis of articles related to China and Southeast Asia in the Lianhe zaobao newspaper. Sino-Singaporean relations are presented in a positive sense regardless of whether the focus is
economic, political, or social; in contrast, when discussing China and Southeast Asia as a region, issues of insecurity and other negative aspects become more prominent. This suggests that, while the Singaporean media reports China in a positive light regarding bilateral relations, there is a clear willingness to raise awareness of the broader regional challenges of China’s rise. It plays the dual role of both friend and critic.

KeywordsLianhe zaobao; Singapore; China; Southeast Asia; media; representation.