Singapore: does democracy work in Asia? Part 3 of 6

January 21, 2016

The People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore has been the dominant political party since 1959. The politics of Singapore take the form of a parliamentary republic and the Prime Minister is the head of the government.

The 2015 Singaporean general election was held on September 11th to form Singapore’s Parliament. The previous Parliament was dissolved on August 25, 2015 by President Tony Tanon on the advice of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and candidates were nominated on 1 September.

The 2015 election was the first since Singapore’s independence in 1965 which saw all seats contested. PAP won 83 of the 89 seats.

Singapore has been accused of being a social democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit says Singapore is a “hybrid” country, with authoritarian and democratic elements. Freedom House does not consider Singapore an “electoral democracy” and ranks the country as “partly free”.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore #136 of more than 178 countries listed in the 2010 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

The ruling Party’s policies contain aspects of socialism as does mainland China, which includes government-owned public housing constituting the majority of real estate and the dominance of government controlled companies in the local economy.

For 31 years from 1959 to 1990, Lee Kuan Yew ruled Singapore as its prime minister. He died March 23, 2015. Imagine the United States with the same president and party in power for more than three decades.

Chinese make up 76.8 percent of the population and according to a comment left for another post, the Chinese mostly vote for the PAP keeping Lee Kuan Yew’s party in power.

The CIA says unemployment is 2.2% and there is no information from the World Bank, the CIA, the World Health Organization, or from  Global Edge on how many live in poverty in Singapore.

Mr. Biao.com says, “Singapore has no beggars, because they will be picked up by the police. … We have no poverty, because Singapore has no official poverty line.”

Continued with Thailand on January 22, 2015 with Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Discover three of Asia’s Republics–Singapore: Part 3 of 3

January 16, 2014

I’ve written about the Republic of Singapore before in The Reasons Why China is Studying Singapore.

Singapore is a model “republic” respected around the world. In fact, Singapore is tied for number one in the Corruption Perception Index for 2010 with a score much better than the U.S. Source: Transparency.org

Focus Singapore says, “It is interesting to note that Singapore laws are very strict with harsh punishments for smoking and littering in public places.”

For example, “A drug offence in Singapore can attract severe penalties including a death penalty.… Homosexual acts, including kissing between men, are illegal in Singapore and penalties include imprisonment.”

Human Rights Watch reports, “Singapore officials should cease using criminal defamation and contempt laws to silence government critics. … Free speech is an endangered species in Singapore.”

In fact, “Singapore remains the textbook example of a politically repressive state,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Individuals who want to criticize or challenge the ruling party’s hold on power can expect to face a life of harassment, lawsuits, and even prison.” Source: Human Rights Watch

But the Western media often ignore human rights violations in Singapore, because, “The United States has maintained formal diplomatic relations with Singapore since it became independent in 1965. Singapore’s efforts to maintain economic growth and political stability and its support for regional cooperation harmonize with U.S. policy in the region and form a solid basis for amicable relations between the two countries.”

About religion — “Singapore generally allows religious freedom, although religious groups are subject to government scrutiny, and some religious sects are restricted or banned. Almost all Malays are Muslim; other Singaporeans are Taoists, Buddhists, Confucianists, Christians, Hindus, or Sikhs.” Source: U. S. Department of State

Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990, was the world’s longest serving prime minister and was elected seven times. His son Lee Hsien Loong has been Prime Minister since 2004. When he runs for office, there is no competition.

When examined closely, Singapore seems similar to China except for China’s policy that leaders may only serve two five-year terms and must retire at sixty-seven.

Return to Discover three of Asia’s Republics: Part 2 or start with Part 1, South Korea

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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Making the Hajj from China: Part 1/2

May 27, 2013

This two-part post may come as a surprise to many in the West that think there is no religious freedom in China.

In fact, China handles religious freedom similar to how Singapore does, and Singapore is seldom if ever criticized in the Western media for this practice.

The U.S. Department of State says that Singapore’s government has broad powers to limit citizens’ rights and handicap political opposition, which it uses. One of those restrictions is a limited freedom of religion.

However, the Constitution for the Republic of Singapore offers the same fundamental liberties China and the US does, which includes freedom of speech, assembly and association and freedom of religion.

For example, Singapore bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church by making public meetings illegal. The Falun Gong has also had problems in Singapore.

China, on the other hand, recognizes five religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism but has banned certain new religious movements that are considered cults. China does not recognize cults as religions.

In the video embedded with this post, Al Jazeera follows Chinese Muslims as they prepare to undertake the hajj pilgrimage.

The ancient city of Xian in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.

Xian claims it has a Muslim history going back more than thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Xian during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese Imam Ma Yi Ping speaks both Chinese and Arabic. He studied at the Islamic University of Medina and has made the hajj several times. He was taught to be a devout Muslim by his parents during Mao’s time when the mosques in China were closed.

Despite the persecutions that took place during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), Islam survived in China.

Ma Yi Ping says that after Mao and the Gang of Four were gone and China opened for trade with the world, he did not have to study the Quran in secret anymore.

Since the 15th century, Xian Muslims have been going to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

In the past, during the ancient days of the Silk Road, these journeys started and ended in Xian’s Muslim quarter. Today is no different.

Continued on May 28, 2013 in Making the Hajj from China: Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Jackie Chan’s Cultural Collections

February 4, 2013

If you enjoy watching films, you probably know who Jackie Chan is. However, outside China, many may not know he is a collector of Chinese cultural things such as rocks, old Chinese wood houses, wine, and ceramic tea cups and saucers.

Chan started acting in movies in 1962 and now has more than 100 films under his acting belt. You may remember Rush Hour 1 to 3 (1998 – 2007); The Karate Kid in 2010, and many others.  According to Celebrity Networth.com, Chan’s estimated net worth is $130 million.

What I didn’t know until my wife and daughter returned from China on New Year day 2013 was that Chan also has been building cultural collections for decades.

Jackie Chan magazine cover

In China, my wife bought a magazine that was exclusively about Jackie Chan’s life, film career, charitable giving and his collections.

one Jackie Chan ancient Chinese wooden structures

Asia One.com says, “Mr. Chan had started his collection (of older Chinese houses and wood structures) some 20 years ago. His collection currently comprises seven houses and an opera performing stage, dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties.”

Jackie Chan rock collection

Then as Chan aged, he became concerned that his collections survive after he is gone, so he is donating them to Singapore and Beijing.

Jackie Chan wine collection

Zee News.India.com reported, “Kung Fu movie legend Jackie Chan wants to donate historical Chinese houses worth more than 67 million US dollars to a university being set up in Singapore … Chan will give the campus seven wooden houses and a performing stage from his private collection …”

Jackie Chan china collection

From Asian Fanatics.net we learn that Chan’s “collecting passion was also influenced by his late father, who loved old Chinese wooden houses. Chan’s dad, Charlie, died … at the age of 93 after battling cancer. The star’s love of all things historical can be seen in his property purchases here. He owns the 105-year-old Jinriksha Station at 1 Neil Road, once the central depot for rickshaw drivers in Singapore, and the four-storey The 50s complex. Both are historic buildings within the Neil Road conservation area.”

If you live in the United States or Canada and are interested in this copy of the Jackie Chan magazine, leave a comment for this post letting me know, and I will hold a drawing March 2013, and then mail the magazine to the winner. If no one is interested, the magazine will be recycled.

Discover China’s Rising Film Industry

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The differences between Individualism and Collective Cultures – Part 3/5

December 19, 2012

When I wrote why China is studying Singapore, my goal was to show Westerners why China couldn’t model itself after an individualistic culture such as the United States.

It wouldn’t fit China’s culture.

Even Dr. Sun Yat-Sen – China’s Democratic Revolutionary, said any democracy in China would have to fit China’s culture saying, “An individual should not have too much freedom. A nation should have absolute freedom.”

Individualism promotes individual goals and encourages each person to express him or herself freely.  Each person is encouraged to be unique. Rules and laws attempt to ensure independence, choices and freedom of speech.

For example, in the US, there is no need to fit in or conform to the group or society.

Relying or being dependent on others is often seen as shameful, and people are encouraged to do things on their own, to rely on themselves. Source: Psychology – Collectivist and Individualist Cultures

However, James Surowiecki says, “We once accused the Japanese of being copycats and now we turn on the Chinese. But the truth is that we have all become imitators. … In many situations, collective decisions are better than individual ones.” Source: Co-Society.com

Continued on December 20, 2012 in Individualism and Collective Cultures – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Is China a Republic? – Part 2/4

January 23, 2012

It appears that democracies come in several types. According to Democracy Building.info, there are three basic types of democracy—the Direct Democracy [ex. Switzerland], the Presidential Democracy [ex. USA, France] and the Parliamentary Democracy [ex. UK, Germany, Spain, Italy].

As for checks and balances, the parliamentary system offers few effective checks and balances [remember that China doesn’t offer checks and balances either].

In the UK, the Prime Minister, as head of state, is not elected. He or she is the leader of the majority party and may stay in power as long as his or her party is the majority. One of the main criticisms of many parliamentary systems is that the head of government is in almost all cases not directly elected by the people.

There are two types of parliamentary systems.  One is the unicameral system, which means it only has one single house or parliament. Forty-four countries fit this description. Examples are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden and Turkey.

Then there is the bicameral system [thirty-three countries] of a parliamentary government, which has two houses, an upper and a lower chamber. Examples of this form of democracy are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the European Union, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Let’s see how China’s type of government compares and decide if it is a democracy, republic or a dictatorship.


Democracy From the Bottom Up (The Carter Center)

The Carter Center says, “More than 600,000 villages across China are participating in a national movement toward meaningful democracy—democracy from the bottom up—in a communist nation of 1.3 billion people. For more than a decade, at the invitation of the Chinese government, The Carter Center has aided this effort by helping to standardize election practices among villages and by promoting good governance and citizen participation.”

According to Rural Life in China at Facts and Details.com, “the 2010 census [reported that], 51.3 percent of China’s population lives in rural areas. This is down from 63.9 percent in the 2000 census, which used a different counting system, and over 95 percent in the 1920s. There are around 800 million rural peasants and migrant workers—roughly, 500 million farmers and 300 million to 400 million excess unskilled rural laborers… There are around 1 million villages in China, about one third of the world’s total.  Each village has an average of 916 people.”

That means about 549.6 million rural Chinese vote in democratic village elections every three years.

By contrast, in the 2010 US national election 37.8% (90.6 million) of the voting-age population turned out, and in 2008 only 56.8% (132.6 million) did.  In 2008, the voting age population was 231.2 million and in 2010, it was almost 236 million.  If the majority of people do not vote in an election, does that mean the democracy is broken?

I recommend reading Rural Life in China at Facts and Details.com.  It is well balanced and points out the way it was and the way it is.  Although I did not read every word, I didn’t see any China bashing going on. It was not an indictment of China. However, I am sure a critic [read that enemy] of China could easily cherry pick this article and select a few pull quotes to support more misleading mudslinging at the CCP while ignoring what life was like in rural China before 1949.

Continued on January 24, 2012 in Is China a Republic – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The First of All Virtues – Piety

November 10, 2011

Confucius said, “Filial Piety is the root of all virtue and the stem out of which grows all moral teaching.” Source: Susan Tan’s short documentary for a junior class project (Susan Tan is an American-born Chinese)

In addition, at Answers Yahoo.com, Genxi asked, “Why do Americans lack filial piety? At the international level, filial piety is very common… After all, parents definitely would care and protect their children unquestionably—ideal condition—, but why can’t adult Americans have filial piety toward their ageing parents in exchange?” (the few responses to this question are interesting)

However, anyone that believes Confucianism may define China might be surprised to discover that Legalism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, etc have also influenced the foundation and moral structure of China’s culture.  While China has always had a diversity of religious beliefs, filial piety has been common to almost all of them and it worked.

The result, for more than two-thousand years, China was the wealthiest and most powerful, technologically advanced nation on the planet until the 19th century.

As for the United States, back in January 2010, I read a post at Parent Base.com that said any damn fool can be a parent, and although I agree, I thought North America is not a comfortable place to be if you become a geezer.

Our daughter called me a geezer once, which means a man who is (usually) old and/or eccentric, when she was joking around during her early high school years. She was not raised to be a narcissistic self-esteem child but knowing many American children that were raised to have high self-esteem did rub off resulting in that rude comment.

Today, she attends Stanford and the degree of respect she demonstrates for older family members is reassuring. I hope the self-esteem residue wore off.

When I was a child, youngsters were to be seen and not heard, which means we treated our elders with respect, and surprise of surprises, I was born in America and I am a Caucasian of British/Irish ancestry.  I’m not Asian or Chinese so I suspect piety was once widespread in American/Western culture but during the 20th century suffered a steep decline.

One exception would be the Amish community in the United States. The Amish are a stark contrast to the American concept of individualism—not only do the Amish encourage reciprocal family assistance but the entire Amish community is responsible for helping each other, including the elderly. According to Reuters, the US Amish population grew 86% to 231,000 in 2008 from 125,000 in 1992 and is set to double by 2026.

However, the Amish are not the norm. After the spread of television, the birth of Disneyland, fast food, MTV, the Internet and the iPod generation, a cancer called self-esteem spread through much of American culture. That self-esteem youth worshiping virus killed off much of the ‘respect’ for one’s elders among many of America’s youth.

In China, what America seems to have lost survives and is the norm. In addition, in Asian countries such as the Philippians, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, etc., piety is still strong and is learned in the family—not from a pulpit.

Collins English Dictionary (Harper Collins Publishing) says piety is a devotion and obedience to parents and superiors and says it (piety) is “now rare” (in the West).

In fact, a comment left by an “Aussie in China” on another post verifies that piety is still taught in most Chinese families since piety plays a significant role in the morality of China.

Aussie in China said, “from my experience here, I would argue strongly that there is a commendable level of morality among many of the young Chinese. The issues of morality are well drummed into them at school and at home.”

The decline of the “first of all virtues” in the West first appeared during the 1960s with the spread of the self-esteem movement among American parents.  The history of this movement goes back to the late 19th century and by the 1960s, it permeated American culture in addition to many of its private and public schools.

The America of today is not the America prior to World War II, and the United States owes its greatness to that previous generation, which was not raised to have high self-esteem and spurn piety and family values.

One example of this moral decline in the US happened to me one night during the summer of 2008 when a pack of young boys taunted me as they raced in and out of our steep driveway on bicycles.

“Hey, old man,” one boy shouted, “you can’t stop us.”

I called the police and filed a report, and the next day walked the neighborhood door to door seeking support to stop the harassment that had gone on for two years—mostly during the summers when school was out and these children had nothing better to do but run wild without proper parental/adult supervision.

These boys wanted to race their bikes down our steep driveway for a cheap thrill, and I dared to tell them not to do it so they defied me as often as possible.

The reason why I didn’t want them playing in our driveway is because the United States has become a litigation nation and if one of those boys hurt himself on our property, the parents might take us to court and possibly destroy us financially—even take our home from us.

When I talked to the mother of one of these boys, she asked, “What was your reason for not letting them play on your driveway?”

Did I need a reason?

Since the episode with that gang of boys (I’m sure they all had a high sense of self-esteem), that mother who thought I needed a reason to keep them off our driveway, doesn’t talk to me or acknowledge that I am alive if we pass each other on the street.

After all, I ratted out her precious, perfect, wild child and called the police on his pack of young friends. In addition, one of the other boys argued with me the first time I politely asked them to go elsewhere for their thrills.

Of course, as a teacher for thirty years, I’ve heard American parents say, “kids will be kids” to explain this sort of behavior.

However, I do not accept that excuse for defiance, lack of respect, rudeness and unruly behavior. In fact, the way children act is often linked to how parents raise them and children raised by self-esteem obsessed parents are often the worst ones, while children raised to value piety, which means respect and obedience to parents and superiors/adults, are often the best.

In reading a post at Always on the Verge, I discovered a misguided individual that inadvertently advocates a world overrun by noisy children that do what they want whenever they want wherever they want.

The author of the post says, “I have always had issues with this saying (children should be seen and not heard).  However, that Blogger called “Webbhouston” does not consider that being quiet around adults is also a sign of respect for those older people that go to work daily to feed the family and pay for a roof over their heads to avoid becoming homeless and hungry.

That, by itself, should be enough for children to learn to keep quiet around adults. Children are not an alien species. They are humans, but when they are born, they are wild animals that parents and adults, such as teachers, tame and train to fit into society.

A cartoon (used for educational purposes only) that dramatically illustrates the decline of piety and family values in America.

I searched for a Blog that talks about teachers being abused by students and found thousands that did nothing but bash teachers. Then I found Who’s to Blame (a dim light in the wilderness of blame the teacher).

It seems that only a few people in the West care what happens to teachers (Finland may be the only country in the West where teachers are given the respect they deserve and Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world. In Fact, the World’s Happiness Index from Forbes.com places Finland second of 155 countries as the happiest place to live).

Then months after I first wrote this post, which appeared January 2010 as a nine part series, I launched Crazy Normal – the Classroom Expose, another Blog to help fill that lack of support for teachers in the US.

Then there was a second incident I experienced that further demonstrates the loss of piety and family values in American culture.

During the summer of 2007, we had just pulled into a motel parking lot in Southern California after driving several hundred miles. A teen with his girlfriend wanted to rent a room for an hour at the same motel. As we waited to check in, we heard the motel manager say, “No way!”

The boy turned to me, and asked, “Hey, old man, can you give us a ride to the next motel? They will not rent us a room here.”

I’m sure this adolescent was out for quick sex. He probably didn’t even know the girl’s name or care. Nevertheless, the lack of respect was obvious.

Today, it is as if adults are expected to be invisible and silent while youngsters get whatever they want such as a TV, Internet connection and video games in the child’s bedroom.

In most of North America, we have spawned more than one generation of narcissists with no respect for piety or understanding of what family values means and many are now giving birth to the next generation.

More than twenty-four hundred years ago, Confucius dedicated his life to the moral training of his culture. He lived during the Warring States period before China was unified. Living with all of that violence and death, he dreamed of a land where people could live happily and harmoniously together.

To learn more about Confucius and piety, check out this site at the Journal for International Relations. I’m not saying what Confucius taught was perfect but it has served China well for thousands of years and still plays a vital role in that complex culture.

Confucius said, “The reason why the gentleman teaches filial piety is not because it is to be seen in the home and everyday life. He teaches filial piety in order that man may respect all those who are fathers in the world.

“He teaches brotherliness in the younger brother, in order that man may respect all those who are elder brothers in the world. He teaches the duty of the subject, in order that man may respect all who are rulers.

“Those who love their parents dare not show hatred to others.” Confucius taught. “Those who respect their parents dare not show rudeness to others…”

While visiting China, I have never heard, “Hey, old man.”

However, there are always exceptions when it comes to piety. Even in China, there will be the occasional rude individual. The thing is, I haven’t seen or heard one yet, and I have visited China many times since 1999.

I did have a disrespectful, American born Asian student (once) during the thirty years I was a teacher.

I also had a small number of hard-working, respectful students from all ethnic groups—even those that were American born, but those types seem to be a dying breed.

My best students were usually immigrants that came to the United States after living in their birth country for several years where the word “self-esteem” was never heard and parents taught the value of piety instead.

In addition, I had one American born student enter high school as a freshman after being home taught by his Caucasian, conservative Christian parents. He was a great person—polite and he worked hard to further his education.

It was obvious that piety and/or family values had been instilled in this one individual by his parents, a daunting task in a country obsessed with stuffing a high sense of self-esteem in its youth.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This edited and revised post first appeared as a nine-part series January 30, 2010 in The First of All Virtues – Part 1 of 9