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Singapore is 8th most powerful country in Asia-Pacific; China closes in on US for top spot: think-tank

OF 25 countries globally, Singapore ranks eighth in terms of the power it wields in the Asia-Pacific region, while Malaysia takes ninth place, according to the latest Asia Power Index, a data-driven comparative assessment of power in the region by think-tank Lowy Institute.

The other nations in the top 10 for overall power in 2019 are: the US, China, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea, Australia and Thailand, the Lowy Institute said in a media statement on Tuesday.

The Asia Power Index measures eight types of power: military capability, defence networks, economic resources, economic relationships, diplomatic influence, cultural influence, resilience and future resources.

The US remained the pre-eminent power in Asia-Pacific, claiming the top spot in four of the eight measures in the index, although it faces relative decline for China is rapidly catching up. The US had a 10-point lead over China in 2018, but that gap has narrowed to 8.6 points in 2019. 

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Said the Lowy Institute: “Current US foreign policy may be accelerating this trend. The Trump administration’s focus on trade wars and balancing trade flows one country at a time has done little to improve the glaring weakness of US influence, its economic relationships.”

The think-tank added that under most scenarios, short of war, the US is unlikely to halt the narrowing power differential between itself and China.

The US is still the dominant military power as well as the most culturally influential one in 2019.

Meanwhile, China netted the highest gains in overall power this year. The emerging superpower took first place in four of the eight index measures. Last year, China led on only three of the measures.

However, despite steady advances, Beijing faces political and structural challenges that may make it difficult to establish undisputed primacy in the Asia-Pacific region, the Lowy Institute said.

Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand were the most improved middle powers in 2019, after North Korea.

Taiwan was the only index power which registered a significant drop in its overall score in 2019.

The 2019 edition of the index was expanded to 126 indicators of power, and features more than 30,000 data points.

The index also tracks shifts in the distribution of power, with annual trends for each country.