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Tue, Jun 29, 2010
The Asahi Shimbun
China's top officials study at Singapore's knee

SINGAPORE - The communist leaders of the world's most populous nation are taking lessons from the small city state of Singapore on how to develop an economy under one-party rule.

A stream of Chinese Communist Party officials have been traveling to Singapore to learn from the experiences of the island nation, which has developed as a hub of the Southeast Asian economy during decades of People's Action Party rule.

Ninety-seven Chinese students are currently studying at the Nanyang Center for Public Administration, a specialist graduate school for senior Chinese officials at Nanyang Technological University in suburban Singapore.

They are all chosen by the Communist Party and include top brass from the party's regional organs, central and local governments and state-owned enterprises.

The center was established as a joint initiative of the Chinese and Singaporean governments in December.

The one-year course, which starts in March, is conducted entirely in Chinese. School fees and other costs are paid by the Chinese side.

Some classes are taught by politicians and former Cabinet ministers, who played leading roles in Singapore's development.

In a recent class, the students were divided into groups of four to five, and each group debated one of China's urban problems, including transportation, the environment, health care and waste disposal.

"China's urban traffic jams are extremely acute. We need to expand our public transportation system like they have done in Singapore," one student said.

Xie Duan, vice mayor of Huizhou, Guangdong province, 47, said a key question for China is whether it could continue to rely on exports to fuel growth.

"I would like to learn from Singapore how to see things from an international perspective and gain knowledge on crisis management and services," he said.

Xie believes that his fast-growing province, which is trying to move beyond its reliance on labor-intensive industries, has a lot to learn from Singapore.

A senior member of the Communist Party committee in China's northeastern region, 44, said: "Elites have supported Singapore under the guidance of the ruling People's Action Party. The situation is similar to the Communist Party of China, and I would like to learn the secrets of the party's long rule."

Li Yuanchao, who heads the Organization Department of the Communist Party Politburo and is a close aide to President Hu Jintao, said Singapore's experiences are of special interest to China when he visited Singapore in mid-April.

In fact, Singapore's connection with China's open-door policies and economic reforms has a long history. Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore in November 1978, shortly before China embarked on its economic reforms. He is said to have been influenced by Singapore's development model.

Deng also spoke of the need to learn from Singapore's experiences when he called for accelerating economic reform during a tour of southern China in 1992.

Nanyang Technological University set up a short-term research course for senior Chinese government officials the same year.

Around 9,000 officials from across China have studied at the university, with many graduates going on to become vice provincial governors and other high-ranking positions.

The National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy also began accepting senior Chinese officials this year.

Li Mingjiang, assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University and an expert on Chinese issues, said Singapore, an international trade center, has a strategic interest in developing ties with Chinese officialdom.

"Singapore aims to expand its influence in Southeast Asia by acting as a bridge uniting China with other nations such as the United States and India," he said.

-The Asahi Shimbun

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