Monday, August 15, 2005

SPIEGEL Interview with Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew: "It's Stupid to be Afraid" - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

SPIEGEL Interview with Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew: "It's Stupid to be Afraid" - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

This is an excellent interview given by Lee Kuan which goes over a number of issues I worry about. As the leader of Singapore he has a close view of the changing world as it relates to the emergence of China and India in the world. And while reading the article it's important to remember that he's the leader of a small country near China and so his comments, while cogent, relevant and insightful, are colored by the need to remain somewhat diplomatic when speaking of China. Personally I see the moves that China is making as similar to the moves made by Germany and Japan prior to World War II. Lee is asked about whether China is going to become a military problem for the west. Lee says, "They must avoid the mistakes made by Germany and Japan. Their competition for power, influence and resources led in the last century to two terrible wars." Clearly there is a reason to see the analogy. When asked about the direct military competition with the United States Lee has this to say, "I believe the Chinese leadership have learnt: If you compete with America in armaments, you will lose. You will bankrupt yourself. So, avoid it, keep your head down, and smile, for 40 or 50 years."

Skirting around the issue of the growth of the militant, nationalism that is growing in China, Lee hedges his bets with this comment, "I don't know whether the next generation will stay on this course. After 15 or 20 years they may feel their muscles are very powerful."

I believe that China is creating it's own unstoppable momentum with regards to war over Taiwan. The increase in nationalism, the ease at which they are relearning and reembracing the idea of Taiwan as being their birthright, (much as the Germans believed Alsace-Lorraine and part of Poland was their land) and the pressures of modernization on the peasant/farmer/poor are all combining to make an inevitable war. Lee sees it a bit more diplomatically. "Their objective is to raise the level of damage they can deliver to the Americans if they intervene in Taiwan. Their objective is not to defeat the Americans, which they cannot do. They know they will be defeated. They want to weaken the American resolve to intervene. That is their objective, but they do not want to attack Taiwan." I disagree with Lee there. China does want to bluff their way into getting Taiwan without a war but the preparations for that war will make it inevitable. A good article all in all. Lee is a brilliant leader who has led Singapore successfully for a while.


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