Chinese privilege

Chinese privilege is the societal privilege that benefits Chinese people over other races in Singapore.[1][better source needed] Sangeetha Thanapal, who is credited with coining the term by analogy to white privilege,[2] defines Chinese privilege by stating that "by virtue of being Chinese in Singapore, you start life at a higher place compared to minorities."[3]

Under the Singapore government's "Chinese-Malay-Indian-Other" (CMIO) model of race, those classified as Chinese form a numerical majority. In New Mandala, Hydar Saharudin argues that Chinese privilege manifests in government policies including the Ethnic Integration Policy used to allocate government housing and the Group Representation Constituency system used to ensure racial balance and, by extension, "operationally guarantee Chinese political dominance".[4] Humairah Zainal argues that the People's Action Party's "race-based approach to politics inadvertently perpetuates Chinese privilege".[5]

The extent and existence of Chinese privilege is controversial, since it challenges the government's line that Singapore is a meritocracy and to Chinese Singaporeans themselves "these 'privileges' remain mostly invisible".[6] Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally in 2021 stated that "it is entirely baseless to claim that there is ‘Chinese privilege’ in Singapore", since Singapore treats "all races equally, with no special privileges",[7] and Sangeetha was issued a stern warning by police for alleging that Singapore is a "Chinese supremacist state" on her Facebook page.[8]


  1. ^ "READ: An in-depth look into the history of 'Chinese privilege' and how it became entrenched in Singapore - Coconuts". Archived from the original on 8 July 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  2. ^ boundary2 (4 March 2015). "Chinese Privilege, Gender and Intersectionality in Singapore: A Conversation between Adeline Koh and Sangeetha Thanapal". boundary 2. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  3. ^ "What Privilege Looks Like in Singapore".
  4. ^ "Confronting 'Chinese privilege' in Singapore". 1 November 2016.
  5. ^ Zainal, Humairah; Abdullah, Walid Jumblatt (3 July 2021). "Chinese privilege in politics: a case study of Singapore's ruling elites". Asian Ethnicity. 22 (3): 481–497. doi:10.1080/14631369.2019.1706153. ISSN 1463-1369. S2CID 213393873.
  6. ^ CHRISTOPHER, CHEE SHEN CHUN (16 April 2018). Chinese Privilege in Singapore: Understanding the Invisible Knapsack (Thesis thesis).
  7. ^ "NDR 2021: PM Lee says 'entirely baseless' to claim that 'Chinese privilege' exists in Singapore". CNA.
  8. ^ Yang, Calvin (29 January 2019). "Activist Sangeetha Thanapal issued stern warning for Facebook post that promotes ill will between races". The Straits Times.