Mis-modelling Singapore : China's Challenges in Learning from the City-state

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1014-1032
Journal / PublicationThe China Quarterly
Online published28 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


Singapore exemplifies what China strives for: resilient authoritarianism despite advanced development with good governance and political stability. But lessons Chinese observers draw from the Southeast Asian city-state have been selective, leading to misconceptions. We focus on three key areas in which Chinese observers claim inspiration from the “Singapore model.” The first, Singapore's “Asian values” discourse which is seen to provide an ideological defense of non-democratic rule, overestimates the impact of top-down conservative culturalism while underestimating the difficulty of propagating Confucianism in officially still communist China. Second, while elections in Singapore are seen to bolster the ruling People Action Party's legitimacy in Singapore, they have been implemented to such a limited extent in China that any legitimation gain is unlikely. Finally, the chief lesson derived from Singapore's fight against corruption, the importance of a committed leadership, ignores the importance of the rule of law in Singapore, a legacy of colonialism very different from China's post-totalitarian trajectory.

Research Area(s)

  • Singapore model, resilient authoritarianism, good governance, Asian values, elections, anti-corruption, 新加坡模式, 具彈性威權主義, 治理良好, 亞洲價值觀, 選舉, 反腐敗