Singapore—Academics Cherian George and Donald Low, who are based in Hong Kong, published a book entitled PAP vs PAP: The Party’s struggle to adapt to a changing Singapore earlier this week.

According to Professor Low, the first print is almost sold out, but those who wish to order may still do so at books.academia.sg.

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PAP vs PAP is an anthology of commentaries regarding local politics from the past years, as well as new articles from this year.

Two professors note in the preface to the book that more Singaporeans are “willing to join the opposition cause, doubtful about the PAP’s policies, frustrated by its politics, and inspired by the quality of leadership demonstrated by some of its opponents.” They deem this to be “healthy” for Singapore, as it “needs to reduce dramatically its dependence on the PAP.”

But the authors’ goal in writing the book is not to find fault with the ruling party, but instead to “focus on how the PAP can respond positively to the challenges ahead, reskilling itself to remain relevant to the country.”

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In an interview with Dhany Osman of Yahoo Singapore, Professor George further explained the book’s purpose, “What is holding back the PAP is within its own mind. It has choices to make to decide whether PAP continues to lead the country or degenerate into mediocrity and become just another party. The choice is within the PAP.”

Professor Low added, “We tried to highlight the choices between the two impulses within the ruling party. The first is capacity for adaptation. The fact is that it is an elite, expert-led government with a strong core of technocratic expertise…or adaptive capacity.”

However, he pointed out that the ruling party “also has very strong authoritarian…even majoritarian tendencies.”

What the two academics believe is “in the PAP’s long-term interest is for its adaptive capacity to come to the fore, to take charge, rather than succumb to the easy temptation, the lure of hardboiled authoritarian methods. Because in the long run that is what is going to cause polarization and division in Singapore,” added Professor Low.

The authors admit that they know the book “on its own will not change hearts and minds within the PAP leadership.”

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But they expressed the hope that it will “spark conversations and spur action among Singaporeans who recognise the value of pressing for a fairer, more open and inclusive political system. Political parties will respond only to ideas that are publicly and persistently championed. An engaged citizenry will be the decisive factor determining the outcome of the battle for the soul of the PAP.”

The preface of the book can be read here.

Professor George, who teaches and researches on media studies at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), is a former journalist with The Straits Times. His three books of essays on politics in Singapore are Singapore: The Air-conditioned Nation Essays on the politics of comfort and control (2000), Singapore, Incomplete: Reflections on a First World nation’s arrested political development (2017), and Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited: Essays on Singapore Politics (2020).

Professor Low is a Senior Lecturer and Professor of Practice at the Institute of Public Policy of the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology as well as the Director of Leadership and Public Policy Executive Education. He formerly served as Associate Dean for Executive Education and Research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He authored a book in 2014, entitled Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus. —/TISG

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