Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew, the Man Who Remade Asia

He preached ‘Asian values’ and turned a tiny, poor city-state into an astonishing economic success. Is Lee’s ‘Singapore model’ the future of Asia?

By Orville Schell, WSJ
March 27, 2015 12:59 p.m. ET

When I arrived in Singapore one sultry summer evening in 1962 as a 22-year-old student, the Union Jack still fluttered over the British colony. Coolies unloaded wooden boats on the docks, per capita income was languishing under $500 and the young independence leader Lee Kuan Yew was still in his 30s. It was a far cry from today’s well-ordered cityscape of manicured parks, gleaming office towers, high-rise apartment blocks filled with middle-class families and glittering malls swarming with wealthy consumers.

What distinguished Singapore back then was its colonial torpor, a total absence of natural resources (not even its own supply of drinking water) and little industry. It was a small, backward Third World outpost. Besides a few iconic British buildings, the city consisted mostly of low arcaded “shop houses,” flimsy street stalls that made up its outdoor markets and a chaotic infinity of dilapidated shacks that formed the slums where most of Singapore’s poor Chinese, Malay and Tamil immigrants made their homes.

As Europe’s colonial era in Asia drew to a close, this ragtag, polyglot populace had turned for leadership to a fiery young anti-colonialist organizer called Harry Lee (as Lee Kuan Yew was then known). By the time he died last week at the age of 91, after serving his country for well over a half-century, not just Singapore but much of Asia had come under his thrall.

(The article is here.)

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