Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

George Yeo: #Singapore is ‘only one bonsai that #China looks at’ [Straits Times]


Singapore’s former foreign minister George Yeo puts it best – Bonsai is the word.

On why Singapore, a young nation of just over five million people, is of interest to China, an ancient civilisation with 1.3billion people, he says: “For China, Singapore is sometimes seen as a bonsai, but one with genetic similarities… We must not have too fanciful a notion of ourselves, that we can teach China… They don’t study just Singapore. They study many other countries as well. Singapore is only one bonsai they look at; they study a whole nursery!”

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S’pore is ‘only one bonsai that China looks at’
by Li Xueying
Source – Straits Times, published November 1, 2012

HONG KONG – Singapore, so long as it stays “creative”, will continue to hold both positive and negative lessons for China.

Beijing is studying the island-nation’s political system, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), and how it is responding to the general election in May last year, says Mr George Yeo.

Meanwhile, there is also scope for the PAP to look to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for lessons, such as how the latter prepares promising leaders to take on more responsibilities, he adds.

The former foreign minister, who visited 10 Chinese cities in four months last year, and who continues to meet CCP leaders of various levels, gave his take during an interview last week.

It came after the CCP’s party newsletter, Study Times, published an editorial on the Singapore political model.

The Straits Times later also reported that state broadcaster CCTV was planning a 10-part documentary on Singapore.

On why Singapore, a young nation of just over five million people, is of interest to China, an ancient civilisation with 1.3billion people, he says: “For China, Singapore is sometimes seen as a bonsai, but one with genetic similarities.”

Singapore, with its Chinese-majority population, carries the same Confucianist ethos found in Chinese society, Mr Yeo adds. “A lot of politics is culturally bound.”

Thus, Singapore “oscillates” on the radar of Chinese leaders. “Sometimes they get drawn to it; at other times, they say, ah it’s too small and of little relevance. (But) sometimes when they face new challenges which they can’t resolve at their level, but which we can at our level, they’re intrigued.

“As long as we stay creative in Singapore, and interesting, they will come back to look at this bonsai from time to time.”

But Mr Yeo warns: “We must not have too fanciful a notion of ourselves, that we can teach China.

“They don’t study just Singapore. They study many other countries as well. Singapore is only one bonsai they look at; they study a whole nursery!”

This is why Mr Yeo is optimistic that the new Chinese leadership which will be led by Mr Xi Jinping will be responsive to the need for reforms. “There is a sense of will, that if there’s a problem, they put their minds to it and solve it.

“I find youthful vitality everywhere. There will be problems, but the energy, the positivism will drive them forward. The challenges are huge but I’m not pessimistic about China’s future.”

LI XUEYING

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Chinese overseas, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Ethnicity, Government & Policy, Greater China, History, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Migrant Workers, Nationalism, New Leadership, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Singapore, Social, Straits Times, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Trade, Uncategorized,

2 Responses

  1. Godfree says:

    I suspect that Singapore’s profile will rise as Xi pursues his corruption reform campaign. What would be the impact on China’s budget if they decided to pay their civil servants on a scale comparable to Singapore’s? What would be the ROI?
    We may soon find out….

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