Lee Kuan Yew – The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World by Graham Allison and Robert D. Blackwill (Part 1)

I have had the privilege of meeting many world leaders over the past half century; none, however, has taught me more than Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first premier and its guiding spirit ever since. – Henry Kissinger

He has sound judgment and intelligence. Without his vision, Singapore might not become so economically powerful. Per capita income rose from $400 a year to about $50,000 now. Singapore is now a major hub and a force to be reckoned with. He has shared his profound knowledge and experiences with many politicians across the World.

When Lee Kuan Talks, Who Listens? (Selected quotes), Xi Jinping, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jacques Chirac, F. W. de Klerk, Xi Jinping, Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Schmidt, Rupert Murdoch, John Chambers, Sam Palmisano, Rex Tillerson, Robert Zoellick, James Wolfensohn, Muhtar Kent, David Rothkopf, Hillary Clinton, George Shultz, Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, Joseph Nye, Nicholas Kristof, David Ignatius, Fareed Zakaria

In my long life in public service, I have encountered many bright, able people. None is more impressive than Lee Kuan Yew. – George W. Bush

Hallmarks of Singapore’s success: focus on education, work and saving, meritocracy, democracy, protectionism in the past but liberation and global engagement now etc. Lee was a smart, thoughtful, blunt and provocative man.

There are two equalizers in life: the Internet and education. Lee Kuan Yew is a world leader who understands this and is using the power of the Internet to position Singapore for survival and success in the Internet economy. – John Chambers

He has the most modern and most strategic view of anyone I have met for a long time. – Madeleine Albright

Today, Singapore is a rich and prosperous country. If the rest of the world could accomplish what Singapore has accomplished, the world would be a better and more prosperous place. He is a man who never stops thinking, never stops looking ahead with larger visions. His views are sought by respected senior statesmen on all continents. – Joseph Nye

Lee is the smartest leader I think I ever met. – Tony Blair

Towering genius disdains a beaten path. – Abraham Lincoln

Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore into a modern and prosperous nation. He is the ‘sage of Singapore’. Many world leaders have been inspired by him. This book focuses on the future of the world economy.

Of course. This reawakened sense of destiny is an overpowering force. It is China’s intention to be the greatest power in the world – and to be accepted as China, not as an honorary member of the West. – Lee Kuan Yew

The Future of China. Is China aiming to be number 1? How does China see the US? China is going to be the world’s biggest economy in the next 20 years and want to be number 1. They are the fastest developing nation. This reawakened sense of destiny is an overpowering force. Their policies are gearing them to be number 1. No one should offend them as they could easily impose economic sanctions. Will China want to impose their imperial status when they are number 1? They tell others to be more respectful of them. China believes in tapping on their skilled and educated workforce. They will practice diplomacy. Although not as strong in terms of military strength as the US, they are deter any aggression by trading heavily with them. They are moving towards the market system of economy. China has to avoid wars like Germany and Japan and not be obsessed with power. Also, they have to avoid being like Russia, which spent too much money on military. The younger generation needs to learn about the rich Chinese history and how they have overcome difficulties in the past. To Asia: ‘come grow with me’, ‘choose to be my friend’. They are more concerned using diplomacy rather than force. Governance problems, as well as culture; language might affect their success. Chinese language is very difficult to master. Their culture allows less expression of creativity and exchange of ideas. It is hard to change culture due to their illustrious history. Also, some of the structures that were recommended by Stalin are still in place. There is also the rich poor divide to worry about. It is hard to monitor so many people, once they move into the cities. They depend on other nations for resources as well. Currently, China wants to grow with the US and tap on their expertise. LKY expects double digit growth to happen in the near future. However, China won’t turn into a liberal democracy. They still believe in the power of communism. Now, they realize the need for the rule of law. Clear laws strengthens the economy. If it is peaceful, China won’t lose. Their chance of being number 1 is 80%. Xi Jinping had a tougher life than Hu Jintao. LKY thinks that he is impressive, just like Nelson Mandela.

Theirs is a culture 4000 years old with 1.3 billion people, many of great talent – a huge and very talented pool to draw from. How could they not aspire to be number 1 in Asia, and in time the world? – Lee Kuan Yew

The chief challenges are culture, language, an inability to attract and integrate talent from other countries, and, in time, governance. – Lee Kuan Yew

While I once advised a Chinese leader to make English the first language of China, clearly that is not realistic for such a great, confident country and culture. But it is a serious handicap. – Lee Kuan Yew

He is reserved – not in the sense that he will not talk to you, but in the sense that he will not betray his likes and dislikes. There is always a pleasant smile on his face, whether or not you have said something that annoyed him. He has iron in his soul, more than Hu Jintao, who ascended the ranks without experiencing the trials and tribulations that Xi endured. – Lee Kuan Yew

China is sucking the Southeast Asian countries into its economic system because of its vast market and growing purchasing power. Japan and South Korea will inevitably be sucked in as well. It just absorbs countries without having to use force. – Lee Kuan Yew

The Future of the United States. LKY believes USA has the ability to rebound well. It has an illustrious history and track record. For the next 20 to 30 years, they will remain the sole superpower. They are very powerful economically and in terms of their military. They have a say in almost every international issue. Also, they have a culture of embracing talented foreigners. USA has a rich entrepreneurial culture, where people are not afraid of failure. English language is also easier to learn. USA has great and noble ideals. The US government has the problem of each succeeding president refusing to take unpopular measures in the fear that they will lose votes. As a result, budget deficits often carry over to the next administration. The presidential system is also flawed, as compared to the parliamentary system. For the parliamentary system, the citizens will know you for a period of time at least. Whereas for the presidential system, anyone can run for it. Media can make a person seem very attractive/popular. LKY believes more in discipline, rather than democracy. The American system is very difficult to run. The problem with US is that social problems like guns, violent crime etc, disrupts society. You cannot let people do their own thing all the time. Individual supremacy cannot be carried to an extreme. Individual rights at the expense of the community. Multiculturalism will destroy the US, esp from immigrants as they will dilute their culture. A mediocre system of government with top people at the top is better than an excellent system of government with poor people at the top. USA needs to control their fiscal deficit properly. They cannot to have other countries withdrawing their assets from the USA.

If people have lost faith completely in their democratic institutions because they cannot find people of calibre to run them, however good that system, it perishes. Ultimately, it is the people who run the system who make it come to life. – Lee Kuan Yew

America’s strengths include no grooved thinking but rather an ability to range widely, imaginatively, and pragmatically; a diversity of centers of excellence that compete in inventing and embracing new ideas and new technologies. – Lee Kuan Yew

Americans have a can-do approach to life: everything can be broken up, analyzed and redefined. Whether it can or it cannot, Americans believe it can be solved, given enough money, research, and effort. – Lee Kuan Yew

The American culture…is that we start from scratch and beat you. – Lee Kuan Yew

They went into an empty continent and made the best of it – killed the Red Indians and took over the land and the buffaloes. So this is how they ended up – you build a town here, you be the sheriff, I am the judge, you are the policeman, and you are the banker, let us start. And this culture has carried on until today. There is the belief that you can make it happen. – Lee Kuan Yew

When you have popular democracy, to win votes you have to give more and more. And to beat your opponent in the next election, you have to promise to give more away. So it is a never-ending process of auctions – and the cost, the debt being paid for by the next generation. – Lee Kuan Yew

Your presidents, I mean, like Jimmy Carter…my name is Jimmy Carter, I am a peanut farmer, I am running for president. The next thing you know, he was the president. – Lee Kuan Yew

I do not believe that if you are libertarian, full of diverse opinions, full of competing ideas in the marketplace, full of sound and fury, therefore you will succeed. – Lee Kuan Yew

They say people can think for themselves? Do you honestly believe that the chap who cannot pass elementary school knows the consequences of his choice when he answers a question viscerally, on language, culture, and religion? But we knew the consequences. We would starve, we would have race riots. We would disintegrate. – Lee Kuan Yew

If you follow the ideological direction of Europe, you are done for. There will always be a tussle within societies, as underachievers want more support, but addressing their needs must be done in a way that does not kill incentive. – Lee Kuan Yew

The Future of US – China Relations. China is just acting on its own national interests and not interested in taking over the world. China can tap on US technology so having conflict is not ideal. Many feel that a US military presence should be maintained. The world will be very different if the US is experiencing conflict. The US must always support Japan. Many Asians still thank the US for their involvement in WWII that allowed them to prosper afterwards. Many countries are now on US’s side after how President Nixon befriended them. The US must try to build as many FTAs as possible. The US should not try to change China into a democratic society. Neither should the US try to threaten China. China has been through a lot, like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. They now want lasting peace. It is important that the younger generation are not hostile but instead, accepting and understanding.

American society was so successful for so long not because of these ideas and principles, but because of a certain geopolitical good fortune, an abundance of resources and immigrant energy, a generous flow of capital and technology from Europe, and two wide oceans that kept conflicts of the world away from American shores. – Lee Kuan Yew

The US cannot stop China’s rise. It just has to live with a bigger China, which will be completely novel for the US as no country has ever been big enough to challenge its position. China will be able to do so in 20 to 30 years. – Lee Kuan Yew

So if I were an American, I would speak well of China, acknowledge it as a great power, applaud its return to its position of respect and restoration of its glorious past, and propose specific concrete ways to work together. – Lee Kuan Yew

…To engage or to isolate China. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say you will engage China on some issues and isolate her over others. You cannot mix your signals. – Lee Kuan Yew

Make them feel that they are stakeholder, and if this earth goes warm, they will be in as much trouble as anyone else. – Bob Zoellick

The Future of India. There is too much bureaucracy that makes it hard to grow economically. There is also excessive corruption that destroys state planning. There are many layers of review before laws can be passed and the constitution changed. In addition, infrastructure is poor and it is running large deficits. Their government has not been able to follow Infosys’ model. The British took over them. There are too many dialects in India. The Brahmins are smart. However, if you marry a non-Brahmin, you go down in caste. Many of their businessman are also corrupt, who just want to make money at the expense of the society. India’s capital markets are stronger than China’s. So are their legal and banking systems. Their average age is also younger than China. To succeed, they have to build better infrastructure and move to the urban areas. India was going the slow path after LKY failed to convince Indira Gandhi to change things. They need to focus more on their manufacturing sector. Major nations all need to start off from an industrial state. They need to cut down on corruption levels and bring in FDIs. Also, the level of education is not sufficient as many drop out of primary school. The unions do not want to be privatized as if the workforce is more efficient, many would lose their jobs. They were too self-reliant on their past. India is much bigger than the whole ASEAN put together. China’s GDP is 3.5 times more than India. India is getting involved economically but building international ties. LKY wanted India to play a guardian in the political stability and economic development in South East Asia.

The caste system has been the enemy of meritocracy…India is a nation of unfulfilled greatness. – Lee Kuan Yew

Indians will go at a tempo which is decided by their constitution, by their ethnic mix, by their voting patterns, and the resulting coalition governments, which makes for very difficult decision-making. – Lee Kuan Yew

India is not a real country. Instead, it is 32 separate nations that happen to be arrayed along the British rail line. – Lee Kuan Yew

Nehru and Gandhi had a chance to do for India what I did for Singapore because of their enormous prestige, but they could not break the caste system. – Lee Kuan Yew

Political systems that yield inferior economic performance will ultimately be discarded for those that are more protective. – Lee Kuan Yew

I have a selfish motive in wanting India to emerge as early as possible as a major possible economic power in world politics. If India does not emerge, Asia will be submerged. – Lee Kuan Yew

The Future of Islamic Extremism. The divide is between Muslim terrorist and the US, Israel, and their supporters. This is the fight for Islam. It is hard to clamp down on terrorists. In addition, they possess weapons of mass destruction. Radical Islam is the problem. They feel that the West has hindered their growth. Americans are usually their target. Arabs have been taught to hate Jews and Israelis. US has a role to play in eradicating this. Muslims in SEA have changed because of the fact that many participated in the Jihad in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia was also rich from oil and spread their teachings. Those radicals are also known as jihadists. In the past, SEA muslims were calm. However, in the past 30 years, some have learnt about Wahhabism. The plan is to drive the US out of Iraq. Jihadists are willing to sacrifice themselves. The US cannot afford to leave Iraq as it will give the Taliban regime strength. With NATO support, the moderate Muslims can fight off Islamic extremism. Moderate Muslims must have the courage to speak out against these radicals. There is a battle between extremist Muslims and the rationalist Muslims. Force alone is not sufficient. You need to tackle the queen bees (preachers too).

But the Muslims believe that if they master the Qu’ran and they are prepared to do all that Muhammad has prescribed, they will succeed. So, we can expect trouble from them and so, it happened. – Lee Kuan Yew

I do not see the Islamic extremists winning, and by that I mean able to impose their extremist system. I can see them inducing fear and insecurity, and causing fear, but they do not have the technology and the organization to overwhelm any government. – Lee Kuan Yew

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Islamic extremist movement has been franchised out, and each group works on its own. It is accordingly more diverse and difficult to pin down. – Lee Kuan Yew

The objective must be to reassure and persuade moderate Muslims…that they are not going to lose, that they have the weight, the resources of the world behind them. They must have the courage to go into the mosques and madrassa and switch off the radicals. – Lee Kuan Yew

You must use force. But force will only deal with the tip of the problem. In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young. – Lee Kuan Yew

For Part 2, click here.


One thought on “Lee Kuan Yew – The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World by Graham Allison and Robert D. Blackwill (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Lee Kuan Yew – The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World by Graham Allison and Robert D. Blackwill (Part 2) | Book & Quote Monster

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