China's obsession with Singapore : Learning authoritarian modernity

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-455
Journal / PublicationPacific Review
Issue number3
Online published30 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Chinese government officials and academics have shown disproportionate interest in the small city-state of Singapore. The Southeast Asian country with a majority ethnic Chinese population has drawn their attention because it is the only country in the world that combines advanced industrial development with stable one-party rule. Singapore not only seemingly defies Western predictions that modernization will inevitably lead to democracy, but also appears to show that authoritarian regimes may be better suited to achieving societal stability in an Asian context. In particular, the ruling party of the city-state, the People's Action Party, has drawn the attention of conservative Chinese reformists who seek to fill the ideological void that emerged following the decline of Maoist ideology. Reformers in China also derive practical governance lessons from Singapore about fighting corruption, increasing professionalization, and improving responsiveness within the party-state. As such, political learning from the Singapore model must be seen as part of the ongoing process of transformation of the Chinese Communist Party. As a consequence of this learning process, Chinese reformers are using lessons from the Singaporean model as arguments in their efforts to bolster the ideological foundations and strengthen the governance capacity of one-party rule, thus reducing pressures for democratization. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Research Area(s)

  • authoritarianism, China, governance, ruling ideology, Singapore model