"Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World"

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: The relationship between the United States and China will be one of the most important factors shaping the globe over the next 100 years. For the curious reader, the most useful perspective on that relationship may come not from within either country, but from the viewpoint of a highly interested third party. "Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World" offers just such a perspective, from the collected comments of the man known as the "founding father of Singapore". Lee's perspective is balanced between his own formative experience of Chinese culture and his open admiration for many of the best qualities of American civilization. He argues for sustained, patient American engagement in the Pacific -- as well as for a dose of deference to China's self-determination, even if that means it never becomes a true liberal democracy. Lee's own use of power marshalled substantial force of will to turn a tiny city-state into a global commercial center in a single generation -- but not without his own violations of human rights. Lee's tolerance for less-than-perfect liberalism and his prescience for seeing the big geopolitical future are well-summed-up in this quotation from the book: "So long as you run this one-person, one-vote, the easiest of appeals that can be made to the ground are the simple, emotional ones, not economic development and progress and all these other things they do not understand, but simple things: Pride in race, in language, in religion, in culture." The rise of isolationist, nationalist politicians in Western countries in the mid-2010s seems to affirm what Lee saw coming. It is well worth heeding what he saw for China and America together in the years ahead.

Verdict: A valuable third-party perspective on the pivotal geopolitical relationship between China and the United States