From Third World to First by Lee Kuan Yew (book review)

From Third World to First by Lee Kuan Yew, 35 year director of all things Singaporean and major reason for its success. I’d never have purchased this huge tome- 700 plus pages – but as a gift I started it and could not put it down. It is uncommon to find an outspoken socialist and anticommunist to be so direct about his opinions and experience. Virtually anybody who was anybody from 1965 to 2000 is a contact and about whom Lee has indelible opinions. And he is not a reluctant anti-communist but absolutely convinced that no communist nation can succeed.

Each chapter is topic based – the economy, the labor unions, Vietnam, the fall of the Soviets etc. He maneuvered his tiny little-non-nation cum nation through the treacherous waters of enemies on every side and inside too. He must have appeared to be tyrannical, but his success speaks for itself. Singapore government is demanding but it meets also the demands of a civil society. World leaders would be well to learn the lessons he demonstrated in his own country.

I was sorry to hear from a classmate of mine who served in Singapore, that his son has not done as well, but this can be expected. The record of inherited headship through blood lines is notoriously poor.

For you, if you are planning to live and work in Asia, might best use this book on a table beside an Asian history compendium and read the history of each period alongside Lee’s opinions. I wish I had had this before I went to China in ’05.


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