Rethinking and redefining the “Singapore Model” : what does China really want to learn from Singapore?
Date of Issue2019-05-08
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
China can be seen as a “learning state” and the CCP can be also seen as a “learning party” that constantly adapts to the new situation and learns external experience frequently. In the past three decades, tens of thousands of officials from various levels of government in China have been sent to Singapore for short-term training or a master's degree program, showing the great interest of China in the Singapore model. Scholars have also reached a consensus on this, that is, by studying Singapore's experience to better cope with the challenges brought by modernization to the one-party rule of the CCP is the fundamental dynamic of China’s obsession on Singapore model. Prevailing views on the Singapore model think it should include the learning of the political institution and the legal system in addition to the specific measures and experience that could teach China how to achieve good governance. However, as a country with great ambitions and emphasis on “four confidences”, China will hardly trust and accept a national model that is actively exported by a small country that maintains close ally relations with the United States. This article originates from a conflict between theory and fact: the prevailing definition of the Singapore model is soft authoritarianism plus good governance, while it is highly unlikely that China would learn the political system of Singapore. This article addresses to explore the causes of China’s learning in the Singapore model and to rethink the definition of the Singapore model. This article mainly focuses on the questions that what are the key factors that make Singapore successful? What experiences can China learn? What experience will apply to China? In order to answer the research question, I shall review the definitions of the Singapore model, identify China’s challenges and goals of learning the Singapore model and assess the lessons that China really wants to learn from Singapore. Based on existing theoretical literature, I redefine the Singapore model as a pragmatism-driven social development path that focuses on practical governance experience gradually and selectively applied by China and could improve the ability to provide good governance without resorting to the Western liberal democratic institutions.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science