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History Lessons by Jonathan Gifford

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LEE KUAN YEW

(b.1923)

Lee Kuan Yew created the city state of Singapore. He turned a small island that was significant only for its strategic importance as a naval base serving the British Empire’s southeast Asian colonial interests, into one of the four Asian Tiger economies, alongside Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea. There was absolutely nothing inevitable about this; it happened because of the vision of one man. Lee Kuan Yew’s relationship to Singapore is perhaps best seen as that of a Chief Executive Officer to a corporation. If we were considering Lee’s career as that of an executive rather than that of a politician we would say, without reservation, that his rise to power was brilliantly but ruthlessly orchestrated; that his sharp, legally-trained ...

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