SPIEGEL's Interview with Lee Kuan Yew
"It's Stupid to be Afraid"Singapore's first-ever prime minister, long-time government head and current political mentor Lee Kuan Yew talks about Asia's rise to economic power, China's ambitions and the West's chances of staying competitive.
Every shipping line is trying to get into association with a Chinese container port. India is slower because their infrastructure is still to be completed. But I think they will join in the race, build roads, bridges, airports, container ports and they'll become a manufacturing hub. Raw materials go in, finished goods go out.
Mr. Lee: It's stupid to be afraid. It's going to happen. I console myself this way. Suppose, China had never gone communist in 1949, suppose the Nationalist government had worked with the Americans -- China would be the great power in Asia -- not Japan , not Korea , not Hong Kong, not Singapore . Because China isolated itself, development took place on the periphery of Asia first.
Mr. Lee: A motor car is a commodity -- four wheels, a chassis, a motor. You can have modifications up and down, but it remains a commodity, and the Chinese can do commodities.
Mr. Lee: No. I see ten bitter years. In the end, the workers, whether they like it or not, will realize, that the cosy European world which they created after the war has come to an end.
SPIEGEL: How so?
Mr. Lee : The social contract that led to workers sitting on the boards of companies and everybody being happy rested on this condition: I work hard, I restore Germany 's prosperity, and you, the state, you have to look after me. I'm entitled to go to Baden Baden for spa recuperation one month every year. This old system was gone in the blink of an eye when two to three billion people joined the race -- one billion in China , one billion in India and over half-a-billion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union .
Venezuelan President doesn't like America . They are going to Iran for oil and gas. So, they are not asking for a military contest for power, but for an economic competition.
Mr. Lee: 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. We know the mind of the leaders but the mood of the people on the ground is another matter. Because there's no more communist ideology to hold the people together, the ground is now galvanised by Chinese patriotism and nationalism. Look at the anti-Japanese demonstrations.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. There is this return to "we want to be a normal country." They are sending ships to Afghanistan to support the Americans, they sent a battalion to Iraq , they reclaimed the Senkaku islands, and most recently, they joined the Americans in declaring that Taiwan is a strategic interest of Japan and America. That raises all the historical memories of the Japanese taking away Taiwan in 1895. Then they're applying to be a permanent member of the Security Council. So, I think the Chinese decided that this is too much. So, they have openly said they will object to Japan becoming a member of the Security Council.
SPIEGEL: Who can stop them? The Americans?
Mr. Lee: Rivals, yes, but not necessarily enemies. The Chinese have spent a lot of energy and time to make sure that their periphery is friendly to them. So, they settled with Russia , they have settled with India . They're going to have a free trade agreement with India -- they're learning from each other. Instead of quarreling with the Philippines and the Vietnamese over oil in the South China Sea , they have agreed on joint exploration and sharing. They've agreed on a strategic agreement with Indonesia for bilateral trade and technology.
The interview was conducted by editors Hans Hoyng and Andreas Lorenz.
Translated from the German by Christoper Sultan / 2005