Opening remarks - Dr John Chipman

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  This is our 50th anniversary year and it is a pleasure this evening to welcome to the IISS a historically important personality who, as I shall describe in a moment, has been kind enough to lend his name to a fundraising effort to honour his achievements in this conference room of the IISS.

Lee Kuan Yew is Asia’s leading strategic thinker, but is so, having been the founder and then leader of a very special city state.  To understand his personal story best, it is probably necessary to read his autobiography, From Third World to First.  However, to understand his place in history, it is worth perhaps listening to the words of Henry Kissinger, who wrote a preface for that special book:

In the case of Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Singapore’s emergence as a national state, the ancient argument – whether circumstance or personality shapes events – is settled in favour of the latter.  Every great achievement is a dream before it becomes a reality, and his vision was of a state that would not simply survive, but prevail by excelling; superior intelligence, discipline and ingenuity would substitute for resources.

We at the IISS sympathise and draw inspiration from those who, with basic resources but superior ingenuity, try to punch successfully above their weight in international affairs.  At this year’s 50th anniversary dinner at the Guildhall, I noted that every worthy enterprise begins with a conceit.  Some years ago, we at the IISS wanted to do something more than comment on Asian regional security and, instead, to do something direct to assist multilateral defence diplomacy.

It was logical that we joined forces with Singapore to create the Shangri-La Dialogue that has become the only trans‑regional institution to manage and bear witness to Asian defence diplomacy.  Ministers of defence from some 25 countries feel they must meet in Singapore to build confidence and develop that transparency that can help to build security in the Asia-Pacific.  The IISS now has an office in Singapore and, as of this year, we will be developing substantially more research on issues directly of interest to the governments who we convene at the Shangri‑La Dialogue.

None of that would have been possible without the support and the personal encouragement given to me and to the IISS as a whole by Lee Kuan Yew.  We were delighted that he accepted that this conference room, where so many strategic thinkers, heads of government, foreign and defence ministers, and other opinion-makers regularly speak in London, could be named after him.

We are very grateful to the following organisations, who gave generous financial support to the IISS to make this possible: Hotel Properties Limited/Reef Holdings, Sino Group, Singapore Technologies Engineering, Keppel Corporation, the Estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat, Singapore Press Holdings Foundation, SembCorp Industries and DBS Bank.

To open this Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room, the Minister Mentor of Singapore has agreed to a special talk and to a conversation with our guests.  Many of us have benefited from his reflections on the world scene and on the rise and different paths to development of great powers.  His strategic thinking is of the classic kind: generous in sweep, focused on the important and mindful of the distinction between the trend and the merely trendy.

As I turn to our Chairman, François Heisbourg, to begin the proceedings, please welcome the Minister Mentor of Singapore to London, to the IISS and to his room.

Opening remarks - Francois Heisbourg

Sir, I think the applause says it all.  I am not going to repeat John Chipman’s words concerning you; I think they are all entirely deserved.  Before launching the discussion this evening, however, I would really like to express my own appreciation, and that of the Institute as a whole, because you represent something that is altogether rare in this world: the value of wisdom.  A lot has changed in this world, and you have helped much of that change to happen in your own part of the world in ways which have been constructive and beneficial.  When we see the world appearing to be walking towards something a little too much like financial meltdown, it is good to know that there are rocks – serious people – in this world who can show us the way.  Sir, it is really to your wisdom that I would like to point.

To get the discussion going, I would like to ask you how you see Asia’s role in international security developing, given changes within the region and given the rapidly growing impact on everything that Asian countries have on the international environment.  How do you see that role developing and how should the rest of the world respond?

Keynote address - Lee Kuan Yew

Let me start by outlining how I see the world.  Singapore survives and prospers only if there is international order, regional peace and stability, and growth instead of wars and conflicts.  The region has grown in the last 50 years because there was an umbrella that provided that security and enabled countries to live peacefully together, and then Japan, followed by Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore blossomed.  That spilled into other countries.  Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon visited China and opened the door.  Deng Xiaoping came to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in November 1978 to have us join forces and stand up to the Vietnamese when they were about to capture Cambodia.

I think he had a shock, because he saw three third-world cities in better shape than Shanghai or even Beijing – if not on such a grand scale, at least with no dilapidated buildings.  What intrigued him about Singapore was that it was orderly and clean, everybody had a home and the economy was run on trade and multinationals.  He asked many questions and he realised that you can make use of international capitalism, train your people, generate revenue and bring about an egalitarian result.

When the aircraft doors closed after I sent him off, I told my colleagues, ‘His staff must have been given a shellacking because the brief they gave him did not live up to his experience’.  Instead of crowds applauding and waving at him, everybody went about their business.  Despite him being the greatest Chinese leader since Mao, everybody said, ‘Life goes on’.  He then decided, that same year, on the Open Door Policy.  He started with about ten coastal cities and, at the same time, set aside communal land for farmers.  He must have been thinking for a long time that the system was malfunctioning, and what he saw in Singapore clicked.  China then had the good fortune to be invited by George W.H. Bush to export to the US, and it is now in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

It did its sums carefully: why did these countries develop?  How did they overtake China?  He must have studied Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore: what is it that enabled them to grow when they did?  I believe that it came to the right conclusion: knowledge of and connections with the outside world, trade, investment, technology and markets.  What it needed was the same.  It slowly and gradually moved, and Zhu Rongji pushed it into the WTO.  He also came to Singapore and studied us in the 1990s, went back and started his own housing scheme in Shanghai, based on our model.

Looking forward to what kind of world would allow us to prosper, I would first require an American pillar, with support from the European Union (EU), that provides the overall ballast.  As China, India and Brazil grow and as Russia becomes more muscular, adjustments gradually take place.  China will continue on its present course, at least for this generation, given that it has learned enough about how China nearly came to grief in terms of the Great Leap Forward, the clash with the Russians across the Yalu River and problems related to the Vietnam War.  It is not going to miss this chance.

If you watch China, you will see that it avoids conflict.  You are not going to change it, but it is not going to be truculent, like the Russians.  If you complain about Darfur, it sends an emissary and tries to improve things.  However, its relentless pursuit of commodities and energy will continue because it knows that, if that stops, there will be trouble at home.  If it continues along this course, it will be a player within the system.

I believe that that will hold until a generation that has no experience of the past comes into its own and says, ‘We have arrived’.  Then there might be a different China.  I put this point to China and it said, ‘No, we are going to make quite sure that this does not happen’.  It needs 40 or 50 years, because it knows that it needs to educate its people, as we have ours.  Its students are all over the world – I understand there are about 75,000 in your universities.  This is China’s Meiji Revolution 150 years after the Japanese: learn from the world and come back.  Many roam, but it does not matter.  They will network and bring back knowledge, technology and links with those countries.

India also decided that it had to open up.  I was not convinced at the outset because, when Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, and Mr Chidambaram, as commerce minister, came in the early 1990s, just after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressured them to open up, given that funds were running out and there were no reserves, they asked us if we would back them and lend them our credibility in their free market enterprise, to which we agreed.  However, when I visited them, the BJP – both Advani and the then Prime Minister – told me that India was selling its heirlooms, so I decided to make a U-turn.  The prime minister then visited China after he took office and, the next time I saw him, it was full steam ahead, so it realised that, if it did not go this way, it would be left behind.

If India and China remain on this course, we are going to have another 40 years of peace and stability in Asia and we will grow.  However, things could go wrong.  I have asked myself: what is the worst-case scenario?  China gives up because the world crisis turns protectionist and it has to go is own way.  It does not achieve this kind of growth and it has internal problems.  In that case, I cannot say that there will be peace and stability.  At the moment, its approach is one of not disturbing the world order.

It ran a television series the year before last.  I watched all 13 episodes and decided to screen them with English subtitles.  It was an interesting analysis of history called The Rise of the Great Powers.  It started off with Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and France, all maritime powers capturing the world.  What enabled them to do it was technology: a united country going abroad with naval technology and increased capabilities.  Japan and Germany came to grief because they challenged the international order and were not big enough to do so.  The lesson is not to be stupid.

I do not see it challenging the international order.  It plays within the rules and does not seek spheres of influence.  It trades and barters and does whatever is necessary, within the rules.  In 50 years, when the population is educated and its research and development (R&D) capabilities have caught up, that is for it to decide.  In the worst-case scenario, something goes wrong and it tries to create an East Asia bloc that leads to rivalries and an unstable world.

I view the lack of unanimity on the part of the EU in terms of responding to Russia as a weakening of the system.  Once Gerhard Schröder wanted the pipeline, Russia gained an advantage.  I met him after he left office and he said, ‘Russia is more important to us than China or any other part of the world.  They need us and we need them, and Eastern Europe is our sphere’.  Angela Merkel is not a fan of Russia but she has adopted this pipeline, which gives Putin and Medvedev a very powerful instrument with which to split the EU – another pipeline to Italy and all countries in between.  In terms of the problems in Abkhazia and Ossetia, then, there will not be a united response, which means a weakened position.

China has not recognised Kosovo.  At the Bishkek meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, it expressed profound concern, so the other Central Asian states also withheld recognition.  It is going to take a non-combative position.  For the time being, all is well, but if this meltdown takes place and leads to a different kind of world, then I cannot say.  The world will remain as it is as long as China believes that this is the way to modernise and catch up.

Dr John Chipman                                                                                                                             Minister Mentor, you painted a picture of, in effect, the peaceful rise of China that we all hope for.  During the Cold War in Europe, there was an unfortunate phrase that was sometimes used about ‘the powers that be in Helsinki’.  People talked about Finlandisation, by which they meant adoption of a policy of a country that was not part of a formal western alliance system, where it was solicitous and careful of their relations with the Soviet Union in order to ensure that, by that diplomacy, it would not be overrun.  It did mean, however, that it would adopt a public profile that, to some in the West, seemed too caring of the then Soviet perspective in international affairs.  Is there any risk that the countries of Southeast Asia, knowing that China would not wish to exert its power directly or use military force, but understanding the nature and weight of Chinese power, could anticipate Chinese demands before they are even expressed with force and begin bending to a Chinese will that does not have to be used so much?

Lee Kuan Yew

That is already happening.   Anything discussed among the ten members of ASEAN is made known to the Chinese embassies in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.  They will know exactly the position of each of the ten members.  ‘What is it you want?  Facilities for an ASEAN summit in Vientiane?  I will build you a conference hall and a hotel.  I will provide you with facilities’.  The way it exercises soft power goes back to an old Chinese tradition.  18 months ago, it decided to hold a meeting of ASEAN leaders in Nanning, which is in the backward province of Guangxi.  It demonstrated how it had changed Guangxi.  The place was splendidly decked out and it put on a show, in which it depicted the culture, dances and songs of each ASEAN country.  I was not there but spoke to the ministers who were.  The leader of a large ASEAN country said, ‘Now we know that it is not democracy that makes you grow, but stability and order’.

Whether it can establish democracy and, at the same time, cohesion in policies and drive in executing them is another matter, but it went back fully conscious that this is an unstoppable prize.  Look at the time within which it was done.  The Beijing Olympics have had the same effect.  It is not that it has arrived, but it is showing you its potential.  It is not a new power but an old one that is reviving.  Only it can stop itself.  It has the manpower and more than adequate intellectual capabilities.  It launched a manned space flight on its own.  You can say that one eminent Chinese scientist came back from the US and helped China with its nuclear arms, but nobody helped it with its space flight.

I watched a programme on CCTV4, in which it explained how it arrived at this one astronaut.  It studied about 1,500 candidates for three or four years.  Three months before the end, it reduced that number to 50.  In the final three weeks, that 50 became five.  On the last day, the winning candidate was chosen and Hu Jintao flew in and wished him God’s speed.  He knew exactly what to do and he spoke to his family.  I thought to myself: ‘1,500 to choose one.  What will happen to the Olympics?’  They are now taking up cricket – you may not believe it, but they are.  The World Cup is a way of exercising sport that shows that you are just like other human beings, and quite skilful at the game.  It has had Australian and Indian trainers produce a cricket 11.  Why not?  You do not have to have body bulk to play football or rugby.

I see all the signs of a power already on the ascendant, without having to use physical force.  Take Singapore: we have helped it in so many ways.  When our deputy prime minister visited Taiwan, it created a lot of publicity that Taiwan foolishly thought would help it.  China decided to show us that this was wrong – that we were helping separatists, because Chen Shui-bian was there – and it froze everything.  The Free Trade Area that was on the cards was held back, although it is now finally once more on the cards and the deal will be signed in October.  After that, we learned what not to do when its core interests are involved.


Nicolas Maclean

Your Excellency, in view of the ever-growing importance of Asia in the world, do you think that it is only fair, in the long run, that there should be more permanent members of the Security Council and, if so, who?

Lee Kuan Yew

We have been through this exercise recently in the Security Council and you can read all about it.  You will not get it through for a very long time.  The five permanent members are quite happy to have it as it is and it will not get through because they will ensure that aspiring members are not in agreement in terms of who should be elected.  We will leave this for another few years.

Baria Almuddin, Al-Hayat

I am a great admirer of your country, which I often visit.  I am thrilled with the way in which it works, it is perfect.  I have two questions.  Firstly, what are your thoughts on how the world should try to solve the problem of extremist and fundamentalist terrorism?  Secondly, do you have any thoughts on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Lee Kuan Yew

I will not attempt a response to your second question.  Just speak to former Prime Minister Tony Blair and you will know how difficult it is.

Your first question is one to which there is no specific answer.  If you want to solve that problem, you first need good intelligence in order to block their finances and break up their cells.  Force must be prevented from being exercised before it does you harm.  In terms of preventing the radicalisation of these jihadis, in peaceful and secular Singapore you can be yourself.  You can build a mosque and be yourself, but we live and let live.  We broke up about 32 jihadi cells and, lo and behold, a radical who was present on the internet is off to Pakistan to enter the Afghan border area.  Everything is already on the internet and worked out.

You have to solve the Palestinian-Arab problem; if not, you are giving them a stick to beat the drum with.  Everyone in Europe is rooting for Mr Obama, but he said that Jerusalem shall be the undivided capital of Israel.  If that is so, how do you have a two-state solution?  He has already disqualified himself from ever coming up with a two-state solution.  That means that you postpone it for another eight years if he wins, so the thing drags on.  I am not very optimistic.

Dana Allin

Thank you very much for your compelling remarks.  In them, you laid out a fairly hopeful vision of 50 years’ growth requiring stability and peace, but it is historically unusual to see the rise of a great power without a lot of turbulence in the international system.  Added to this are the environmental consequences of China’s rise, requiring, it seems to me, a great power deal that is probably unprecedented in history, involving the subsidy of green Chinese technology and so on from countries like the US, which are economic and, to a large extent, geostrategic competitors.  My question is whether you think that the great powers, including the US, have the wisdom and subtlety to accommodate this rise.

Lee Kuan Yew

At the moment, it does not, but as the climate change drama unfolds, I hope that China realises, in five or ten years’ time, it is closer to midnight than it thinks it is.  If it suddenly finds rivers going dry or large movements of people across watersheds looking for arable land, it will start doing something in earnest.  At the moment, its attitude is, ‘Per capita, look at us and look at America.  Are you telling us that we are the cause of this?’  I do not think that is helpful, but that is its position.  It went to Bali and both it and India took that position.  It will stick to that position at all conferences until it realises that it is caught in this.  It is building two coal-powered power plants every week.  The Beijing Olympics are over and the smog has returned to Beijing.  At an enormous cost, it suspended factories and power plants, and produced a high enough quality atmosphere for the marathon to take place because it would have been a grave loss of face.  However, to clean up Beijing permanently would incur a great cost.

The Party Secretary of Guangdong visited recently and wants us to start an eco-city project there.  How can he?  How is he going to get rid of all the factories and power stations that he has built?  He now talks about clean and green, but how do you get there?  We faced the problem of a constraint of space.  As we industrialised, we recognised, right from the outset, that if we do not do it the right way, we would ruin our lives.  We had enormous trouble when we built a petrochemical complex with Sumitomo, which wanted Japanese standards, while we said we wanted world standards, with Germans and Americans vetting each stage of the construction process.  The net result is that, if you go near the petrochemical works in Jurong, there is no odour, so it was worth the effort.  What compelled us to do that was that we knew that this would spread to the whole city and destroy us, so greenness for us was a matter of survival.  Now, China is switching to another yardstick, which is sustainable growth, but between the indicator that it imposed and the final execution are many long years.

Peter Snow

Mr Heisbourg mentioned the near meltdown of the current world financial scene.  If and when we manage to pick up the pieces from the shambles of the last two weeks, how differently will you look at prospects for all that in time to come?  In other words, how have the last two weeks changed your view – if they have – of how we are going to cope with all this in the future?

Lee Kuan Yew

It has not changed my view of how the world looks.  I believe that, in the nature of the free-market system and the way in which it operates in US, with inventive minds working out derivatives, hedge funds and so on, from time to time you are going to get this kind of problem.  You will never solve the boom and bust cycle.  I do not know how long it will take to get out of this.  I have been reading various analyses and points of view.  I was nearly late arriving here because I was so absorbed in reading what Strauss-Kahn and others are saying.  It is not going to be a clean solution.  Once you have a loss of trust and banks not lending to each other because they are not quite sure whether they are in a position to meet their obligations, the system freezes up.

In terms of unfreezing it, you need to restore confidence.  In terms of restoring confidence, the extreme view is that you do what China did.  You take the bad debts and loans of all your banks and nationalise them, and the banks restart.  Now, it has some strong and sound banks with foreign partners.  That will cost many trillions of dollars, yet Mr Paulson has proposed just $700 billion.  He is having all kinds of problems with Congress and wants to include various other things into the proposed bill.  Eventually, they will pass one; otherwise, they will be blamed for a big crash, and I am quite sure that the Democrats will not want to be blamed.  There will be some bill passed, although I am not sure that it will address the situation.

If there is a complete collapse like the one in 1929, is that the end of the world?  Have we learned nothing from the last Great Depression?  Everybody has read Kindleberger in terms of what should not be done the next time.  I think that things will pick up again, but this does not mean the end of all crashes with this free-market economy.  There is any number of books on manias.  Derivative mania was so cleverly packaged that it spread and found its way into reputable insurance companies like AIG.  It was supposed to be the firewall against the collapse of the system, but it also went into derivatives.  Why not?  Everyone else was making money out of it.  It was a mania.  However, it will not be exercised forever.  Human nature – greed and fear – will always be there.

Rahul Roy-Chaudhury

Thank you very much for a fascinating talk.  You mentioned that you see China relentlessly pursuing energy and commodities worldwide.  At the same time, India is also actively pursuing energy resources in some of the same countries to fuel its own economic growth.  How do you see these energy dynamics impacting on the relations between India and China and, thereby, on Asian stability and security?

Lee Kuan Yew

As long as there is free-market bargaining, India will just have to learn to outbid China.  China will not go to war with India.  It is prepared to take risks; for example, it is in the Niger Delta, risking Chinese lives with Chinese money, but it has decided that it is worth it.  It is in Angola and Sudan.  It wants something out of Iran.  It is making friends with the Central Asian republics.  It wants a pipeline from Kazakhstan into China over thousands of kilometres and it is prepared to build it.  This is free-market competition.  I do not see it as being, ‘If you agree to sell to India, I will beat you up’, but rather as, ‘Whatever India offers you, I will offer you more’.  It is going to play by the rules of the game and is quite convinced that it can win that way.

Robert Fox

Continuing with the apocalyptic vein, had it not been for the financial crisis and Georgia, I would have bet you a pound to a penny, when you were chalked in to come and talk here, what we would be talking about: the imminence of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.  There was a very gloomy report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ten days ago.  In terms of how you depict China having handled North Korea and its acquisition of a bomb, how would you see the threat of nuclear proliferation, taking the three examples of North Korea, Iran and Pakistan, and do you see any chance of a mechanism to tackle non-state players and their acquisition of nuclear weapon technology?

Lee Kuan Yew

I am not an expert on this – I read the general literature – but I am pessimistic.  I never believed that China would be able to persuade North Korea to give up the bomb.  It may be prepared to put the bomb into a glass box and break into it only in emergencies, provided you pay it a handsome fee for that, but not to give it up, since that is the regime’s survival.  It has seen how China abandoned it and went to South Korea, because China wanted South Korean technology and investment, so it is not going to trust China.

As for Iran, Russia is playing a very dangerous game.  I would have thought that, if there was fissile material in Iran, there would be in Chechnya too, from where any number of people would be prepared to take it to the Bolshoi, and that would be that.  Mr Putin knows that but he believes that the US will do something about it and carry the can.  It is a game.  I do not think it likely that, after the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report, Iran has stopped its nuclear processing.  George W. Bush did not pre-empt, which it was feared he would do, so it will be left to the next president, who will take six months to a year to digest all the problems on his plate, of which this is one.

The best solution is to get Russia onside and take really serious action, but that comes at a price.  If they want to get Russia onside, was it wise to expand NATO in this aggressive way?  Was it worth it, given Georgia and the number of Russians living in eastern Ukraine and Crimea?  Are you going to war with Ukraine or Georgia?  I do not know what Saakashvili thought.  He may be cheered up by whatever the US tells him, but hard facts should tell him.  200 years ago, Georgia was part of Russia.  France and Germany made it quite clear: ‘Let us not go into this’.  I would rather say nothing more because I have some very strong views on the stupidities of leadership.

Gordon Wilson

Minister Mentor, could I take you back for Singapore itself?  Thank you very much for your address.  For someone who was frequently in Singapore in the 1960s and 1970s and returning there now 40 years later, the prosperity and dynamism are phenomenal and the change into a prosperous city state is extraordinary.  Has there been a price to be paid?  Is there as much freedom of expression as perhaps could be allowed in a modern state, as we have today, and is there some disquiet that ministers and prime ministers now have salaries commensurate with captains of industry?  Is that a good thing?  Do they take their eye off the ball for the rewards they get rather than being altruistic political leaders?

Lee Kuan Yew

I start from first principles.  What did I have to do to turn this improbable country into a country and eventually a nation?  It took me a very long time.  We were a disparate group of people rioting with each other just a few years before we became independent, because Malay extremist forces stirred up problems.  You have to work from first principles and to pay no mind to what political scientists say in terms of doing this or that, following this prescription, with free-market democracy according to Fukuyama.  I needed a stable, peaceful society, so I had strict laws against inciting racial or religious tensions.  At the same time, I made quite sure that everybody was treated equally.  Religions were respected but we made all loudspeakers in mosques face inwards because we did not want trouble.  Does everyone need to wake up at five o’clock in the morning?  It is now an accepted way of life.

We also mixed everybody up in high-rise buildings, no longer in enclaves.  We have no ghettoes or qasbas.  Every constituency has its quota of the less successful.  Everybody has the same chances in education and we chose a neutral language – English.  Rather than legislating, we just said that you either go to an English school where you learn your mother tongue as a second language, or you go to a Chinese, Malay or Tamil school and learn English as a second language.  After a few years, parents discovered that having English as a first language led to better job opportunities, so that solved itself.  Malaysia went the other way by throwing out English and adopting Malay.  The Chinese and Indians decided to have their own schools, teaching in Chinese and Tamil, and now they have a divided society.

These are basics that you have to get right: a level playing field and a meritocracy regardless of race, language or religion.  That is part of our national pledge.  Now we have arrived, why do we not run a liberal democracy?  Why should we?  I got a clear mandate.  The lowest turnout we had was 60% of the electorate.  Nobody alleged chicanery or malpractice.  People wondered whether the press was controlled.  Everything can be reported, but no crusading is allowed.  The internet is there and you can do what you like, but we try to prevent becoming sidetracked.  Western political scientists, NGOs and even some US Government officials believe in a prescribed route for success.

Our success then becomes a challenge to that, such that we are an example to China, which is absurd.  The Chinese are not fools.  They study us as a little cameo in terms of what they can learn from Singapore.  They then pick and choose and do it their way.  China is not going to become a liberal democracy; if it did, it would collapse.  Of that, I am quite sure, and the Chinese intelligentsia also understand that.  If you believe that there is going to be a revolution of some sort in China for democracy, you are wrong.  Where are the students of Tiananmen now?  They are irrelevant.  The Chinese people want a revived China.  We have a coherent Singapore.  Do we want an incoherent Singapore and have the whole thing fall apart?  Think about it carefully.

At every election, I used to tell people to think carefully: ‘In the next five years, do you want your homes to be worth more or less?’  The smallest taxi driver or hawker has a home worth S$150,000.  They are stakeholders.  If they vote the wrong government in, property prices drop and they are in trouble.  If you produce the right government, there will be more infrastructure and connectivity, a better environment and clean water, thereby allowing you to improve your assets.  Why should we change that?  The western media and political scientists say that that is wrong, but is it?

I have any number of unsolicited testimonials from visitors who say, ‘I love your country – I am going to settle here’.  Look at the people who are settling there.  In the last few years, 30,000 Indian professionals have taken up residence and started three Indian schools to teach their children in line with the Indian syllabus so that they can return to India.  We welcome them.  We have 4,000 Chinese and 4,000 Indian companies.  They have come to Singapore, not because we are a liberal democracy, but because we offer them a platform from which they can leap.  They can market their wares throughout Southeast Asia to China and India, and vice versa.  Would we want to risk that?

What is $1.5 million dollars to our law minister when he gave up a practice worth $4 million?  Look at whose wives are dripping with gold and diamonds.  We are the poorest ministers of any ASEAN country.  Do you want that to change?  Am I not worth $1 million?  I can earn $100,000-200,000 by giving a talk to a group of bankers who have brought their clients together.  This is the reality.  At every election, it is an issue, but we do not dodge it – we justify it.  As long as we have clean, honest and effective government, it will hold.  The day we become dishonest, ineffective or incapable, we are out.

Mark Fitzpatrick

Minister Mentor, I am compelled to ask a follow-up question to the one posed by Mr Fox on nuclear proliferation.  It also follows something that you just said about the standard that Singapore sets for honesty and good governance.  It goes to a study that the IISS did last year on the spread of nuclear weapons technology through the black market.  We assessed how globalisation was contributing to this and how states that had open ports facilitated transit and disguising of the end users of this technology.  We assessed the different states with firms that were caught up in the network of A.Q. Khan ssessed how gblstn  the IISS did last year on the spread of nuclear weapons techg ion, itis and we noted the differences.  Singapore stood at one end as a country that, when it had any problem with this, imposed strict export controls that did not seem to affect the trade status of its open ports, and yet its neighbours that did not have legislation still seemed to be part of a potential problem.  The question is: how can Singapore’s model be exported to other countries?  How can you export your best practices?

Lee Kuan Yew

The US has tried very hard to urge these countries to do as we do, but each country has its own agenda and believes that this is in their interests, so they do things differently.  If you make it profitable for them to do it this way, they will, but if you just say, ‘If you do this, it will help combat proliferation’, they will ask, ‘What is proliferation?’  If more people have bombs, there will be more power centres.  They do not think about the fact that this is a highly unstable world and that, somewhere, at some time, a major disaster will occur.  They have to think long-term and envisage the kind of world that it would be after such a fall-out.  That scares me.

Francois Heisbourg

Minister Mentor, I would like to thank you very much, not only for the wisdom that you have so graciously shared with us this evening, but also for the quality of that wisdom and its refreshing and candid nature.  You do not mince your words or dodge the issues, for which we thank you.  Your presence here is also the most vibrant demonstration of the link between the Institute and Singapore, and this is also something that we certainly hold very dear at the IISS.  Thank you very much indeed and à bientôt à Paris, since you will be travelling to Paris after leaving London.  I am glad that you stopped here at the IISS before going to France.  Thank you very much.

Event details

Keynote Address
Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor of Singapore
Arundel House, London
Tuesday 23 September 2008