2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 273

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Governance, National Identities, and Economic Strategies of Post-Colonial Singapore and Macao

Organizer: Bill K. P. Chou, University of Macau, Macau

Chair: Simon Ho, University of Macau, Macau

Discussants: Ahmed Shafiqul Huque, McMaster University, Canada; James T. H. Tang, Singapore Management University, Singapore

Singapore and Macao are seldom included in the comparative studies of most disciplines, although they have a lot in common: European-dominant colonial history, a majority of Chinese population, dependence on performance rather than democratic procedure for regime legitimacy, and the need for building national identities among the population who may still harbor allegiance to another political entity. Soon after its 1965 independence, the Republic of Singapore propelled itself to the rank of developed countries, standing out in Southeast Asia on political stability, economic prosperity, environmental hygiene, and quality of governance. On the contrary, under Portuguese rule from the mid-1550s until 1999, Macao had after the mid-19th century been eclipsed by British colonial Hong Kong and was considered political and commercial backwater. Despite rapid economic growth after its 2002 casino liberalization, post-colonial Macao’s quality of governance as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China did not catch up. The Macao SAR political leadership has looked to Singapore examples to improve its performance legitimacy as challenged by maladministration, corruption, and various spillover effects (like inflation and sky-rocketing property prices) generated by double-digit economic growth rate (from a casino capitalism-led tourism and construction boom). This panel’s four papers will investigate what Macao can learn from Singapore and how much Macao has learned and applied such lessons to improve its governance and developmental policies. Furthermore, the panel will examine these two city-domains’ state building processes, with a special focus on the fostering of national identities and the transformation of economic strategies. (247 words)

Building the Single and Multi-Dimensional National Identities in Post-Colonial Singapore and Macao
Bill K. P. Chou, University of Macau, Macau

This paper explores the contours of the state and society interactive dynamics in shaping the mainstream national identities in Singapore and Macao. Emphasis will be placed on the two city-domains’ post-colonial development. This paper argues that the political leaders in Singapore framed by a semi-democracy enjoyed a free hand in the project of building national identity. In independent Singapore, national identity is used as a powerful tool for the strengthening of national cohesiveness challenged by ethnic divide, overcoming the problem of lack of land and natural resources in economic modernization, and above all, legitimizing the authoritarian regime. In contrast, the PRC’s Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) has limited leverage in defining national identity as its December 1999 retrocession to China implies that the official notion of national identity in Macao must converge with the one sanctioned by the PRC central government. While Singapore’s pursuit of economic competitiveness has led to the taking root of the English speaking culture defined by Singapore’s leaders, the economic diversification policy (to move beyond gaming-related tourism dominance) in post-colonial Macao has resulted in the emergence of a local identity grounded on its cultural and built heritage, the people’s own life styles as well as an awareness of the community to their distinction from the Chinese mainland partly due to the lingering Lusophonic influence after four and a half centuries of Portuguese rule. (228 words)

Economies of Singapore and Macao in Global Financial Crisis: Responses, Recovery and Prospects
Yang Zhang, University of Macau, Macau

Singapore and Macao had both been inevitably affected by synchronized global economic downturns, brought about by the late 2008 financial sector crisis that originated in the USA. Specially, Macao’s casino revenue growth came to a halt under the twin blow of a deteriorating global economy and Beijing’s imposition of tighter visa restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors to Macao. Singapore’s economy in 2008 was derailed from its high growth (7.8% and 8.4% in 2006 and 2007) to a modest GDP expansion of 1.1%, rendering it the first economy in ASEAN to enter recession. Despite the common susceptiveness of the two small open Asian economies to external shocks, Singapore and Macao took different paths in their way out of the crisis. This paper attempts to investigate these two economies’ respective policy responses during and recovery processes after the crisis. For Macao, the break in the gambling and tourism-led boom is believed to be conducive in giving the territory a much-needed breathing respite to re-examine its economic growth pattern where more diversified tourism with leisure and business conventions likely to be the focal point. For Singapore, emphasis is on increasing domestic consumption and shifting the economy away from purely export-led growth to development driven by high value added services in education, healthcare, tourism (with newly opened casino-resorts) and the creative sector. This paper will also discuss how the gambling industry with massive American investments has helped Singapore and Macau to thrive while other economies remain sluggish in the aftermath of crisis. (248 words)

No paper title submitted
Yoong-yoong Lee, Independent Scholar, Singapore

What has Macao Learned from Singapore’s Capacity-Building Programs?
Chiew S Ho, University of Macau, Hong Kong

Since the People’s Republic of China resumed its sovereign administrative control over Macao in December 1999, the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) government had claimed to learn much from Singapore’s impressive capacity building programs. This paper aims at systematically evaluating what the Macao SAR leadership has actually learned from Singapore. Specifically, it will focus on such vital areas as civil service training, public housing policies, a universal central provident fund, and corruption fighting as well as anti-money laundering undertakings. Despite its much trumpeted public rhetoric of learning from Singapore, the Macao SAR administration has so far demonstrated only rather limited traits of effectively applying pertinent elements of the “Singapore model” to its public policy issue articulation and decision making in these areas. This paper argues that the serious lack of political will among the regime elites who are loaded with vested special interests and the inadequate English language proficiency of the Macao SAR civil servants are the major reasons for such a slow learning and application process of the lessons from Singapore. (172 words)