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Managing relationships in large public projects: comparative study of China and Singapore

Yongjian Ke (University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia)
Florence Y.Y. Ling (Department of Building, National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Yan Ning (Southeast University, Nanjing, China)
Zhe Zhang (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Article publication date: 25 April 2019

Issue publication date: 5 July 2019




One of the solutions to manage large public projects that are complex and difficult to manage is through relationship management. Although formal and relational approaches have been adopted in managing relationships, it is widely recognized that participants from developed and developing economies have different mindsets toward these two approaches. The purpose of this paper is hence to elucidate the more effective practices for managers to manage relationships in large public projects that are in countries of different sizes and stages of development.


A structured questionnaire survey was conducted. Multiple stakeholders involved in public construction projects in Singapore and China that include public sector clients and consultants, private sector contractors and conszultants, were approached for data collection to provide information on one of their completed large public project.


Both Singapore and China primarily adopt contractual governance by making rational decisions, pursuing profit and using the contract to guard against trouble. Participants in Singapore are more deeply committed and work more collaboratively than their counterparts in China. Project partners in China build stronger relationships, which may be due to the importance of “guanxi” to conduct business activities there.


The comparative study provides managers with different sets of governance practices to adopt to improve the relationships with public clients in large public projects under different environments. In large public projects in developed countries, participants should rely more on relational practices that show commitment and teamwork, while those in developing countries participate in activities that build up their social networks.



Ke, Y., Ling, F.Y.Y., Ning, Y. and Zhang, Z. (2019), "Managing relationships in large public projects: comparative study of China and Singapore", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 348-363.



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