Few gave tiny Singapore much chance of survival when independence was thrust upon it in 1965. Today the former British trading post is a thriving Asian metropolis with one of the world's highest per capita income. The story of that transformation is told here by Singapore's charismatic, controversial founding father Lee Kuan Yew. From Third World to First continues where the best-selling first volume, The Singapore Story, left off, and brings up to date the story of Singapore's dramatic rise.
Delving deep into his own meticulous notes and previously unpublished papers and cabinet records, Lee details the extraordinary efforts it took for an island city-state in Southeast Asia to survive, with just "a razor's edge" to manoeuvre in, as Albert Winsemius, Singapore's economic advisor in the 1960s, put it.
We read how a young man of 42 and his cabinet colleagues finished off the communist threat to the fledgling state's security, and began the long, hard work of building a nation: creating an army from scratch, stamping out corruption, providing mass public housing, and masterminding a national airline and airport.
Lee writes frankly about his trenchant approach to political opponents and his often unorthodox views on human rights, democracy and inherited intelligence, aiming always "to be correct, not politically correct". Nothing about Singapore escaped his watchful eye: whether choosing shrubs for roadsides, restoring the romance of historic Raffles Hotel or persuading young men to marry women as well-educated as themselves. Today's safe, tidy Singapore certainly bears his stamp, but as he writes, "If this is a nanny state, I am proud to have fostered one."
Lee's domestic canvas in Singapore was small, but his vigour and talent assured him a larger place in world affairs, which he writes about in inimitable style. He brings history to life with his cogent analysis of strategic issues, and candid, sometimes acerbic pen-portraits of people he met, including the indomitable Margaret Thatcher, heart Ronald Reagan and poetry-quoting Jiang Zemin.
We read of his meeting with Deng Xiaoping ("a five-footer but a giant among men") which helped change the course of Southeast Asian history. We learn of Lee's role in staving off disorder in Indonesia with urgent phone calls and a secret meeting with Suharto's daughter on Christmas Day 1997.
We watch as Lee navigates the complex skein of relations between America, China and Taiwan over the years, acting as confidant, sounding board and bearer of sensitive messages.
Lee also lifts the veil on his family life and writes of wife and partner Kwa Geok Choo and their pride in their three children, including elder son Hsien Loong, now Singapore's prime minister.
- Hardcover, 680 Pages
- Dimensions: 238mm x 160mm
- Language: English
- Weight: 1012g