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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'S'pore fever' rages on in China

My dad's been keenly aware of this fact for a while, that Singapore has been an effective model for the Chinese to learn (some say, copy) from. This is on many fronts. One, despite our boasts of multiculturalism (and mighty successful at that), Singapore is really a society based on highly (politically-driven) Chinese ideals (Confucianism and Legalism, for example is embedded and translated as meritocracy, hierarchy, loosely presented as high morality ), and well, the one-party rule governing such a broad spectrum of ethnicities is a fine starting exemplar for dealing with China's 56 ethnic groups.

What's really pertinent in this article is the fact that now the Chinese are not just keen to learn from Singapore, but to surpass Singapore.


'S'pore fever' rages on in China
By Peh Shing Huei, China Bureau Chief
Source - The Straits Times 24 June 2009

SHENZHEN: A fresh wave of books on Singapore is hitting China, as scholars here add to the growing Chinese literature on the experiences and stories of the island nation.

At least five titles will be published in the later half of this year, with most focused on learning from the experiences of Singapore's ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

Journal articles discussing the party's five decades in power are also lined up, timed to coincide with the PAP's 50th anniversary in governance this year.
The current interest, said analysts, is driven by Chinese officials who have been flocking to Singapore for training.

'There is an elite push behind this,' said Henan Normal University's Professor Sun Jingfeng, whose book studying the PAP's longevity in power is being printed now.

'More and more officials have been to Singapore for training. When they return to China, they want to share what they have learnt. That creates interest in books on Singapore among the party cadres,' he added.

Since 1996, Singapore has trained more than 16,000 Chinese officials, with the Nanyang Technological University's two Masters programmes - dubbed shi zhang ban, or 'mayors' programme' - among the most well-known and popular.

Besides Prof Sun's publication, other new books on Singapore include Sichuan province cadre Li Shaojian's Enhance International Cooperations With Singapore. Mr Li also wrote a book two years ago on Singapore's harmonious society.

Professor Li Luqu of Shanghai's East China University of Political Science and Law will publish a book on East Asian comparative politics, drawing heavily on Singapore's experiences in maintaining a stable and clean political system.

And Shenzhen University's Professor Lu Yuanli is planning a revised edition to his two-volume Why Can Singapore Do It?, which has sold nearly 30,000 copies.

The book, which was launched in mid-2007 and carries a foreword by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has gone through eight print runs.

It has also topped numerous best-selling lists in various Chinese cities, with the most recent being Guangdong province's Zhuhai two months back.

There is another unmistakable sign of the interest in the Singapore experience: piracy. Some titles have been scanned and uploaded online, Prof Lu told The Straits Times in an interview at Shenzhen University's Centre for Singapore Studies.

'The interest is largely driven by party cadres. They are more practical. They want to see what works. The Singapore experience speaks their language,' he said, adding that he was invited by the Chinese Communist Party's school in Pudong, Shanghai, to give a talk about Singapore in April.

This new level of interest can be seen as a continuation of the third stage of the 'Singapore fever' in China.

The first came after 1979, when the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore for the first time.

The second was after 1992, when Deng praised Singapore as an orderly and well-managed country during his famous Southern Tour of China's prosperous provinces, and said China must not only learn from Singapore but also surpass it.

The current wave is believed to have started in 2007 when southern leaders like Guangdong province party secretary Wang Yang and Kunming city chief Qiu He publicly pushed cadres to learn about and surpass Singapore.

'After reading my book, Qiu He told all the Kunming officials that they have to read it and he would test their understanding of it,' said Prof Lu.

'The Singapore model of development before democracy is something which suits China.'