Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World Review by Pamela Sodhy

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Pamela Sodhy is an Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies program at Georgetown University where she teaches courses about Southeast Asian History, U.S.- Southeast Asian relations, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Prior to this she was an Associate Professor in the History Department at the National University of Malaysia. She earned her Ph.D from Cornell University and her publications include The U.S.-Malaysian Nexus: Themes in Superpower-Small State Relations, The United States and Malaysia: The Socio-Cultural and Legal Experience, and US- ASEAN Trade: Current Issues and Future Strategies

"Another strength of the book is that it provides...Lee’s most valuable insights on a wide array of topics on international relations..."
"Lee is an astute judge of character and keenly aware of the faults of leaders..."

Graham Allison, Robert D. Blackwill, and Ali Wayne. Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World. Massachusets: The MIT Press, 2012. 232 pp. $17.95.

This book, a compilation of Lee Kuan Yew’s views and in-sights on foreign policy matters, is unique in that its contents are pulled from interviews with Lee and from his speeches and writings. The compilation is the work of three scholars: Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillion Professor of Government and the Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School; Robert D. Blackwill, the Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Ali Wyne, a researcher at Harvard’s Belfer Center. They use a question and answer format, starting each chapter with a list of specific questions and then providing Lee’s answers. Their aim, as stated in the Preface, is “not to look back on the past 50 years, remarkable as Lee’s contributions to them have been. Rather our focus is the future and the specific challenges that the United States will face during the next quarter century.” To them, Lee’s answers are meant to be “of value not only to those shaping U.S. foreign policy, but also to leaders of businesses and civil society in the United States.”

The book spans Lee’s insights over a half century, covering different periods: as Prime Minister of Singapore; Senior Minister under his successor, Goh Chok Tong; Minister Mentor under his son, Lee Hsien Loong; and, since 2011, as Senior Advisor and Emeritus Senior Minister. In terms of content, the book is very comprehensive as it deals with Lee’s views on numerous foreign policy topics. As for the book’s organization, its first part is unusual in that a Foreword, by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, is followed by a short section with a title in the form of a question: “Who is Lee Kuan Yew?” Next is another short section, also with a question, this time entitled “When Lee Kuan Yew Talks, Who Listens?” After that is the Preface, followed by ten chapters, with the first eight providing Lee’s views about the future... (purchase article...)