Singapore / Why does Singapore implement Civic Nationalism?

    Singapore is independent from Malaysia in 1965. It fulfills the definition of a ‘nation’, which is population, territory, government and sovereignty. Yet, the population would not directly recognise themselves as ‘Singaporean’. They need to undergo certain experience together and build up a sense of belonging to the place. Nationalism generally includes ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. The former one define ethnicity as “nation”. In other words, same ethnic group forms the same nation since people of the same ethnic group share the same ancestors, culture, heritage, language and so on. Because of these common features, strong bonding can be form between people and they will feel they are part of the country.

    However, Singapore is a multi-cultural society and ethnic nationalism is not applicable for it. The government thus applies civic nationalism to lessen the conflicts between different ethnicity. Apart from internal pressure, Singapore also face threats from outside. The surrounding countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, implemented ethnic nationalism. The Chinese immigrants in those two countries were oppressed and excluded from the community. This situation gave pressure to Singapore as majority (around 75%) of the population is Chinese. Under civic nationalism, all ethnic groups in Singapore, such as Chinese, Malaysian, Dravida, etc, and all cultures, such as Islamic and Indian are considered to have a role for the country. English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil are listed as official languages. People of different races are treated as the same nation to lessen the friction between them to form a harmonious community, thus increasing the loyalty to Singapore.


Kong, L. and Yeoh, B S A. (2003) The Politics of Landscape in Singapore: Constructions of “nation”. New York: Syracuse University Press.

Suryadinata, L. (2000) Nationalism and Globalization: East and WestSingapore: Institute of Southeast Asia Studies.

Wong, T-C., Yuen, Belinda. and Goldblum, C. (2008) Spatial Planning for a Sustainable Singapore. Singapore: Springer Science + Business Media.

Yeh, Y-T. (2009) Nation Politics of Public Housing Policy in Singapore. No.50. Taiwan: Journal of Geographical Research

1 Comment on “Singapore / Why does Singapore implement Civic Nationalism?

  1. It is a clear definition of ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism, the comparison between Singapore and Malaysia made the reason of Singapore implementing civic rationalism stronger. However, as an super-imposed ideology, I am wondering how does the government can really put this forward. It always take years or decades for a reform and the changing of people’s mind is the hardest. Is it possible that you can give us some examples of policies or phenomenon that shows the effort of implementing civic nationalism?

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