THE just-concluded Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee could be interpreted as a statement that China will follow in the footsteps of Singapore in reforming its economy and political structure. Although Beijing is unlikely to declare its desire to imitate Singapore, its leaders have apparently chosen the Lion City because it has cultural, ethnic and economic similarities. Prior to the plenum, scores of top Chinese leaders visited Singapore. The Singapore experience has convinced them that ethnic diversity can become an explosive problem and it is necessary to resort to authoritative rule to control separatists. Moreover, Deng Xiaoping and former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew share the view that it is not necessary to link economic liberalisation with political reform. However, widespread corruption could scuttle Beijing's plan to copy the Singapore experience. The recently launched anti-corruption campaign is a positive sign. The plenum also signalled the end of the Mao Zedong era. Through the plenum, the Communist Party has proclaimed that the reform agenda set by Mr Deng has replaced the revolutionary theories of Mao. Last week, propagandists launched the Third Volume of Selective Works by Deng Xiaoping. These moves show that China's future development will be dictated by Mr Deng - and Mao Thought will have to take a back seat. Dr Guo Shiping is Professor of Economics at Wuhan University.