For city planners and policymakers in many parts of the world, Singapore has come to embody a model of efficient and growth‐oriented urban development. Yet there has been very little research that goes beyond descriptive assessments of urban design and urban policy and understands the political economy that has produced the current system of planning in Singapore. This article explores the role of land acquisition and land management in Singapore’s urban development. It argues that Singapore is best understood as a model of urban planning under state capitalism. Drawing largely on academic studies, reports of Singapore government agencies and government‐linked corporations, and interviews the article analyzes the mechanisms through which the Singaporean state has used direct involvement in the commercial real‐estate market as a powerful tool to gain access to revenue, achieve urban redevelopment objectives and exert powerful influence over the Singaporean society and economy. Through the commercial exploitation of state landholdings and through stakes in state‐owned and private enterprises, the Singaporean state has harnessed urban development to an agenda of political hegemony, nation building and economic development within a framework of globalization.