Book - MIT Press

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World

| February 2013

Overview

When Lee Kuan Yew speaks, presidents, prime ministers, diplomats, and CEOs listen. Lee, the founding father of modern Singapore and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, has honed his wisdom during more than fifty years on the world stage. Almost single-handedly responsible for transforming Singapore into a Western-style economic success, he offers a unique perspective on the geopolitics of East and West. American presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama have welcomed him to the White House; British prime ministers from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair have recognized his wisdom; and business leaders from Rupert Murdoch to Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, have praised his accomplishments. This book gathers key insights from interviews, speeches, and Lee's voluminous published writings and presents them in an engaging question and answer format.

Lee offers his assessment of China's future, asserting, among other things, that "China will want to share this century as co-equals with the U.S." He affirms the United States' position as the world's sole superpower but expresses dismay at the vagaries of its political system. He offers strategic advice for dealing with China and goes on to discuss India's future, Islamic terrorism, economic growth, geopolitics and globalization, and democracy. Lee does not pull his punches, offering his unvarnished opinions on multiculturalism, the welfare state, education, and the free market. This little book belongs on the reading list of every world leader—including the one who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2013.

Praise for Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World:

"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, February 4, 2013

"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, February 20, 2013

"The question of whether nations can learn from history nag policymakers around the world. Part of the problem is that history is handed down through a variety of interpretations that do not reflect reality. But contemporary history, if genuine presented, can offer policy makers with lessons they can learn from. This is the central message in the newly released book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World, by Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill, with Ali Wyne. This is a contemporary account of Lee Kuan Yew's thinking as told through a series of interviews. His central message is that history can repeat itself in a positive way if the world community pays attention to contemporary lessons."

— "Development: Learning from Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew" by Calestous Juma, January 30, 2013

“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.

The book focuses forward on Mr. Lee’s prognostications, not backward on his accomplishments. Messrs. Allison and Blackwill refrain from commentary on the man and his ideas, letting readers interpret for themselves.”

Karen Elliott House, The Wall Street Journal

“The new book on Lee Kuan Yew’s views on China and its geopolitical influence on the global stage shows, again, why he is still one if the world’s most lucid thinkers. . . . [A] perceptive and concise read, detailing the wisdom of a man who has been at the political forefront for close to 50 years. . . . [The] question-and-answer format [is] an ideal one—his responses were mostly short, sweet and most importantly, smart. . . . [This book will] educate and enlighten by condensing the man’s vast intellect into accessible nuggets of information.”

— "A Yew World Order" by Dazzlyn Koh in Prestige, June 2013

"[A]fter reading a good 20 pages, readers will be mesmerised by Lee's lucidity and entertained by his acerbic tongue. After all, he is a good critic because he is not wholly shaped by ideology, nor does he try to be politically correct. . . . The final chapter, 'How Lee Kuan Yew Thinks', reveals the human side of this formidable man and is a must-read. . . this book is a good read not only for students of politics, but also for readers interested in strategic thinking. Right-wing activists and liberal thinkers alike should read this book because gifted authoritarian figures such as Lee are increasingly rare."

— "Lee Kuan Yew serves up controversial views on China, the US and radical Islam" by Anchalee Kongrut in Bangkok Post, April 29, 2013

“I found myself engrossed this week by the calm, incisive wisdom of one of the few living statesmen in the world who can actually be called visionary. The wisdom is in a book, Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World, a gathering of Mr. Lee’s interviews, speeches and writings… He is now 89, a great friend of America, and his comments on the U.S. are pertinent to many of the debates in which we’re enmeshed.”

Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

“The authors, a team of eminent strategy thinkers, took the opportunity of recording [Lee Kuan Yew’s] views on the world, and the way it’s likely to take shape over the next quarter century. The result is this concise, but important book, that looks at the futures of China, the US and India, as well as important contemporary issues, from globalisation and democracy to Islamic extremism—all delivered in Lee’s characteristically incisive, and occasionally politically incorrect manner.”

Anvar Alikhan, Outlook

"The authors…emphasize the fact that the statesmen of dozens of countries, including those that compete with each other, appreciate Lee's wisdom and want to assimilate his experience. In particular, Lee has been an adviser to a number of U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama. He has also advised Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and the current president, Xi Jinping. . . . In spite of its global scope, the book contains valuable advice on how to build an effective public administration system."

— "Борьба за лучшие умы" by Simon Saradjyan in Russia in Global Affairs [Russian], March 10, 2013

"Whether you agree with him or not, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew is a great man. [He is] a straightforward man with straightforward talk, [who] will not beat around the bush so [this book is] very fun to read . . . As an introductory book about Lee Kuan Yew, this is a very good choice."

— "開卷中國:李光耀教導美國應對中國" by Liao Jianming in South China Morning Post [Chinese], May 7, 2013

"The book is a peek into the past, a mini-encyclopedia of Lee's statements, speeches, magazine articles (and so on), that is stirred into a bouillabaisse for beginners. . . . More than just an exceptional mind, Lee is a force of nature. Up close and personal, he can charm your human-rights arguments away with dialectical subtlety, or blow you away with one overpowering dismissive glare. Has there ever been anyone like him?"

— "Book review: Lee Kuan Yew" by Tom Plate in South China Morning Post [English], March 17, 2013

"Lee Kuan Yew (MIT Press, 2012) focuses on the insightful, expansive views of Singapore’s first prime minister (from 1959-90), who is known as the founder of modern Singapore and who remains an astute observer of world events. . . His observations are acerbic: India’s economic potential won’t be realized as long as it retains a stultifying bureaucracy and hidebound caste system—and, he insists, 'Multiculturalism will destroy America' (though he also worries about our propensity for guns, drugs, and 'unbecoming behavior in public').

— James Clyde Sellman, Colloquy

“The contribution of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World to the debate about Asia’s future is unique…[It] sets down the thoughts of an 89-year-old veteran of 20th century history with much to say about the future. The book is densely packed with Lee’s characteristically blunt assessments of issues, countries and people. The text has been deftly assembled and extensively footnoted.”

— Stephen Minas, LSE Review of Books

"In a recent publication 'Lee Kuan Yew, the Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World'—a compilation of interviews and selections by Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill with Ali Wynn, published by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government—the former prime minister of Singapore had this to say: 'China's emphasis is on expanding their influence through the economy. In the geopolitical sense they are more concerned now with using diplomacy in their foreign policy, not force'."

— "A Sense of Urgency" by Ramon J. Farolan in Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 26th, 2013

“Lee excels in pithy evaluations of regional and national strengths and weaknesses. At his best, the man is a cross between Confucius and Machiavelli.”

— Aram Bakshian Jr., Washington Times

"Required reading for Presidents Obama and Xi."

— "Period of benign drift may be best for Asia" by Kobsak Chutikul in Bangkok Post, June 15th, 2013

"The book belongs on the reading list of every world leader."

— The Commercial Press, Hong Kong

Lee Kuan Yew held the #1 position in the Straits Times as Singapore's highest bestselling nonfiction book for six straight weeks. Its current record stands at eight straight weeks in the top five, of which seven weeks were at #1.

 

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World is currently available here and here. More information about the man and the book is available here.


About the Authors

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 a researcher at the Belfer Center.

About This Book

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World

Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World
For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham, Robert D. Blackwill, and Ali Wyne. Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, February 2013.