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Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World (Belfer Center Studies in International Security) Hardcover – 26 Feb 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (26 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262019124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262019125
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Editorial Reviews

Review

The short book [is] packed with intelligence and insight. If you are interested in the future of Asia, which means the future of the world, you've got to read this book.

(Fareed Zakaria CNN, "Book of the Week,")

Lee's powerful intellect is captured in a new book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World. It's a collection of interviews with him by Harvard University professor Graham Allison, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Robert Blackwill and Harvard's Belfer Center researcher Ali Wyne, while also drawing on other selected and cited writings by and about Lee. Now 89, officially retired and somewhat frail, Lee has mellowed with age -- not unlike his creation Singapore, governed today with a lighter touch even as its citizens grow more vocal. Yet, as the book, and the adaptation here of the China chapter, reveal, Lee is as sharp, direct and prescient as ever. Though the volume was completed before China's current territorial tensions with its neighbors, it helps expose, and explain, Beijing's hardball mind-set.

--TIME Magazine

Graham Allison and Bob Blackwill have important questions to ask about China, America and the extraordinary impact of the relationship of those two countries on the rest of the world. For answers, they turned to Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore s first premier and one of the world s most formidable geopolitical thinkers and strategists. The result is a fascinating book called Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master s Insights on China, the United States, and the World. --Ian Bremmer, Reuters

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World forms a kind of last testament of the ailing, 89-year-old Mr. Lee. It is based on interviews with Mr. Lee by the authors Graham Allison, a professor of government at Harvard's Kennedy School, and Robert Blackwill, a former U.S. diplomat to which the authors add a distillation of Mr. Lee's speeches, writings and interviews with others over many years. --Karen Elliott House, Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Graham Allison is Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Robert D. Blackwill is Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Ali Wyne is an associate of the Belfer Center.


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Lee Kuan Yew is one of the most impressive of what I call "foundational rulers" of the 20th and 21st century, together with all too few others, such as David Ben-Gurion, Charles De Gaulle, Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela. As humanity is increasingly in need of outstanding foundational rulers for coping with its cascading metamorphosis, driven by science and technology together with values transformations, there is much to learn from Yew and his many publications. Still, sorely missing is a comprehensive biography of Yew within the context of the making of modern Singapore.
This book is not substitute for what is missing, but it does whet the appetite for much more. The presented fragments of Yew's views serve well to counteract Western misperceptions and mind-shackling notions of what is "politically correct." Thus, to provide just some illustrations from Yes's view presented, however briefly, in the book: "It is the near-geniuses and the above-average who ultimately decide the shape of things to come" (p. 129); there is "the ever-present danger of regression and even collapse" (p. 134); leaders should not be over influenced by public opinion, there being "moments when [leaders] have to be thoroughly unpopular" (p. 117); China was right to repress the Tianamen students who "are irrelevant" (p. 153); and "China is not going to become a liberal democracy; if it did it would collapse" (p. 13).
Not all of Yew's views, as presented, are correct. Thus, he overemphasizes that "it is ultimately in the sphere of economics that results must be achieved" (p. 112), neglecting critical aspects of a "good life"; fateful implications science and technology for the future of humanity are discussed superficially (p.
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Format: Hardcover
Lu Kuan Yew (LKY) must be the most experienced political leader still living to day, born in 1923 and still being as insightful as ever. The book is based on interviews by Harvard academics and on analysis of what LKY has written and his speeches. This format of questions and answers is effective, because the LKY gives original and innovative answers. He explains what is likely to happen as well as the risks that it can go wrong, very wrong. The chapter subjects are China, the USA, India, Islamic extremism, Globalization and Democracy.
In the rest of this review I have selected some of LKY's comments as examples of what you can expect on the subjects of vision, the purpose of government, the system of
Government, Leadership, National economic growth, China and the USA. His comments.
LKY comments. Society must maintain a balance between nurturing excellence in performance of the most capable, and encouraging the average to improve. There must be cooperation between people in the same society. There is a continual need to balance between a successful competitive society and a cohesive, compassionate one. To maintain cohesion, we buffer in Singapore the lowest 20%, the weaker achievers, from the tough competition of the market place. We support the lower-income workers with extra income.
Human beings are inherently vicious and have to be restrained from their viciousness. Confucius theory says people can be improved. I am not sure it can be, it can be disciplined. Law and order is essential, but many do not recognize that without order laws cannot be applied. Order also demands that people act in a disciplined way, which is not "natural".
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This assembles various remarks from numerous published sources. I found it less interesting that Lee Kwan Yew's own account in his two biographies. Still, it is much shorter, cheaper and more accessable. A series of interesting insights.
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It's useful to check on countries that are successful in economic development and look at what they are doing right.

In this regard Singapore has had rocket ship performance going from a nondescript Asian entrepôt in 1965 to an advanced industrial nation by the new millennium, so it is doubly interesting to hear Singapore's long time leader Lee Kuan Yew talk not only about Singapore, but also world development in general.

The inevitable focus is on China and the USA with this short book covering a lot of ground.

Basically he's a pragmatist who sees Western democracy as failing. As he says, "Westerners have abandoned an ethical basis for society believing that all problems (post WW2)are solvable by good government". He calls it, "The erosion of the moral underpinnings of a society and the diminution of personal responsibility" and he even goes further saying that, "Multiculturalism will destroy America." as society loses its identity and fractures.

It's not that he doesn't see benefits in multiculturalism. The US attracts top talent from around the world through an entrepreneurial culture, top universities and operating in the English language, but he suggests that multicultural projects must be carried out with great care such that new nationals become (in his case) Singaporeans first. To this end he limited Indian schools in Singapore since their Indian sentiment and cultural teaching inevitably undermined a primary loyalty to multi-ethnic but mono-cultural Singapore. It's a delicate balance and in the case of the US he sees it going wrong with the failure of the core Anglo cultural values of respect for family, country, thrift, hard work, scholarship and learning in the face of a new confused liberal multi-ethnic, counter-cultural identity.
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