The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew–Understanding Singapore’s Foreign Policy


April 16, 2017

The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew–Understanding Singapore’s Foreign Policy

Listen to the views of two brilliant Foreign Policy Experts who served Singapore as Ambassadors with unparalleled  distinction.

It was indeed my pleasure to have met Ambassador at Large Bilahari Kausikan last year (2016) when he delivered a Distinguished Lecture on The Future of ASEAN at The Techo Sen School of Government and International Relations, The University of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. He was an outstanding and eloquent speaker, who was never afraid to speak his mind. I am delighted that we as friends are in touch via Facebook and e-mail. I remain his willing Foreign Policy student.

Unfortunately, I do not have the privilege to know Professor Chan Heng Chee, the long serving Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States. From her books, I can say that Professor Chan is a formidable intellect, and a superb specialist on International Relations.  Her two books titled Singapore: The Politics of Survival, 1965–1967 and The Dynamics of One Party Dominance: The PAP at the Grassroots (1976) are my favorite. –Din Merican

5 thoughts on “The Big Ideas of Lee Kuan Yew–Understanding Singapore’s Foreign Policy

  1. For medium and small countries Foreign Policicy is dictated by national interest. For others to accommodate your national interest your fundamentals must be strong and you must be recognised for doing the right thing. And also remember to respect the value of your currency and, as an individual should be, try to have manageable and diversified debt. Now make your foreign policy calculations.

  2. In a way Singapore was lucky in that at the time of its birth China was not a usurper of the US’s World dominance and thus chosing to openly side with the US and not be too critical of a relatively weak China worked, just as it worked even for Malaysia which could grow rich inspite of less than sterling economic management. (Anyone disagreeing with this should ask why is it that with all its obvious advantages, Malaysia is behind Singapore?)

    If Singapore were to be a newly independent country today or even 10 years ago, the neighborhood would not be that conducive even with a young LKY around.

    This of course does not take anything away from LKY’s recognized brilliance; just that luck had something to do with it, not least of which was that the Tunku and not Razak was the PM at that critical juncture. Razak would never have allowed Singapore to secede, just as Najib would never allow Sarawak or Sabah to secede.

  3. The Malaysian Malaysia concept and Lee Kuan Yew’s eloquent speech in Malay in Parliament really got the UMNO leadership worried and fear that the Alliance rule may soon be replaced by an alternative Alliance formation led by LKY. The Ultras in UMNO were calling for the arrest of LKY to prevent such an eventuality. The Tunku was under tremendous pressure then made worse by warning from British PM Harold Wilson against arresting Lee. It appears now that “Separation” was a consensual agreement reached between Malaysia and Singapore (whilst it was part of the Federation). Some say it was an idea sold to the Tunku by the PAP leadership itself. And so separated Singapore from Malaysia and marching on a winning streak now outpacing and outperforming the latter in every sense.

    Tunku said soon after separation that Singapore will in time to come, come crawling back to Malaysia. I cannot fathom his mind to read what prompted him to say this. He could not have foreseen today’s geo-political changes with US power waning and China’s rising. He himself admitted that he was not as half-clever as LKY. But still, with China getting closer and closer to Malaysia and giving it all-out support, can Singapore withstand the pressure of co-habiting with Malaysia?

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