Weeks ahead of the Communist Party's once-in-a-decade reshuffle, the party's leading policy journal has called on leaders to look to Singapore for an example of how to run the country.
The commentary in yesterday's Study Times - run by the Central Party School under Xi Jinping, who takes over as the party's general secretary next month - said it could learn much from the more liberal version of authoritarianism practiced by Singapore's People's Action Party (PAP).
"Since 1968, the People's Action Party has won consecutive elections and held state power for a long time, while ensuring that the party's high efficiency, incorruptibility and vitality leads Singapore in attaining an economic leap forward," said the article by Song Xiongwei, a Chinese Academy of Governance lecturer.
The publication of the article less than three weeks before the party's 18th national congress offers a strong hint that Xi could draw from the "Singapore model" as he lays out his blueprint for running the country. Xi will replace Hu Jintao as the party's general secretary at the congress, setting him up to become president next year.
"The Singapore model has been admired by most Chinese leaders and Xi might see Singapore's success as the dreamed accomplishments of his rule in coming decade," said Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University.
In particular, party leaders like how Singapore achieved economic success, social order and relative freedom, while preserving one-party rule and limits on speech and expression.
Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was among the first to look to Singapore when he, in 1992, cited the city state as a well-managed country that China must learn from.
The article cited the PAP's introduction of internal democracy and competition within the ruling party, and the creation of a merit-based civil service. It built a harmonious society based on Confucian ideals and Chinese traditions, it said.
Some analysts questioned whether the practices of Singapore - an island city of 5.2 million - are applicable to a vast country with a population of 1.3 billion.
"The rule of law is weak in China, while corruption is widespread at almost all levels of the government and bureaucracy," said John Lee, a China expert at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.