Sunday 28 October 2012

Revelations of the Lion City

China documentary finds out what makes S'pore tick
By Peh Shing Huei and Kor Kian Beng, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2012

BEIJING - A 10-part China documentary series on Singapore is titled Lion City Revelation and its producers are determined to uncover everything that makes the tiny country tick.

Not content with just speaking to politicians, businessmen and scholars, the film crew is even shooting Halloween celebrations at Clarke Quay this weekend.

The scale, depth and attention to details have surprised observers and those interviewed by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

It is a sure sign, they said, that the new Chinese leadership is earmarking Singapore as a model for its renewed push for reforms - both politically and economically.

Most compared it to the CCTV's famous 12-part series in 2006 on the nine great powers of the world, including the United States and Germany.

The state broadcaster this time is devoting 10 episodes to just Singapore.

"This is the first time in China's mainstream media that so much airtime has been allocated to introduce a single country," said Henan Normal University expert Sun Jingfeng, who has done research on Sino-Singapore ties.

"It will surely stir up a fresh round of 'Singapore fever' in China when it is shown."
The 2006 documentary series, titled The Rise Of The Great Powers, received much global acclaim.

Former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew asked a Singapore TV station to dub the series in English and show it.

He said in a 2010 interview that the series was "a lesson to support their (China's) gradual opening up and their idea of how they can do it without conflict - the 'peaceful rise'".

Similarly, analysts believe that Lion City Revelation, which is expected to be shown here next March, is intended to push China onto its next lap of development.

This is especially since the documentary series has been personally endorsed by incoming Chinese leader Xi Jinping, according to several well-placed sources.

Mr Xi is slated to succeed President Hu Jintao at the 18th Party Congress starting on Nov 8.

"I think Xi wants to show that Singapore, though a small country, has moved forward and some of its experiences may be relevant to China," said Singapore's East Asian Institute assistant director Lye Liang Fook.

While Singapore has been a point of reference for China since the 1980s, this series intends to go deeper.

"China has mainly been learning the economic side of Singapore's success, such as attracting foreign investment and building industrial parks," said Professor Sun.

"But when it comes to the political system and social management... it has yet to have a systematic and broad-based study of Singapore's ways."

The series aims to fill the gap, with wide-ranging themes like people's livelihood, education and ethnic groups and rule of law.

"Even our local TV stations may not do something like this," said Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng, who was among a long list of politicians interviewed.

Its television format will help Chinese leaders convince the people that a dominant political party can still ensure prosperity and fairness.

For instance, Singapore property giant CapitaLand's chief executive Liew Mun Leong is featured as a role model who reached the top of the corporate world despite his humble beginnings.

He said the documentary series "shows that China wants to benefit from the experiences of Singapore's many successes".

"This openness on the part of China holds much significance for the world," he added.
Agreeing, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Teo Siong Seng, who will be interviewed for the documentary, said the CCTV project is a clear sign that "the Chinese are trying to use Singapore as a learning model".

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