Table of Contents
|Part I||Getting the Basics Right||1|
|1||Going It Alone||3|
|2||Building an Army from Scratch||11|
|3||Britain Pulls Out||31|
|4||Surviving Without a Hinterland||49|
|5||Creating a Financial Center||71|
|6||Winning Over the Unions||83|
|7||A Fair, Not Welfare, Society||95|
|8||The Communists Self-Destruct||109|
|9||Straddling, the Middle Ground||121|
|10||Nurturing and Attracting Talent||135|
|11||Many Tongues, One Language||145|
|12||Keeping the Government Clean||157|
|14||Managing the Media||185|
|15||Conductor of an Orchestra||199|
|Part II||In Search of Space--Regional and International||225|
|16||Ups and Downs with Malaysia||227|
|17||Indonesia: From Foe to Friend||259|
|18||Building Ties with Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei||293|
|19||Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia: Coming to Terms with the Modern World||309|
|20||Asean--Unpromising Start, Promising Future||329|
|21||East Asia in Crisis 1997-1999||343|
|22||Inside the Commonwealth Club||351|
|23||New Bonds with Britain||373|
|24||Ties with Australia and New Zealand||385|
|25||South Asia's Legends and Leaders||403|
|26||Following Britain into Europe||423|
|27||The Soviet Union--An Empire Implodes||439|
|28||America: The Anticommunist Anchorman||449|
|29||Strategic Accord with the United States||471|
|30||America's New Agenda||487|
|31||Japan: Asia's First Miracle||501|
|32||Lessons from Japan||521|
|33||Korea: At the Crossroads||531|
|34||Hong Kong's Transition||543|
|35||Taiwan: The Other China||559|
|36||China: The Dragon with a Long Tail||573|
|37||Deng Xiaoping's China||595|
|38||China Beyond Beijing||617|
|40||China: To Be Rich Is Glorious||645|
|Part III||Winding Up||661|
|41||Passing the Baton||663|
Read an Excerpt
Going It Alone
There are books to teach you how to build a house, how to repair engines, how to write a book. But I have not seen a book on how to build a nation out of a disparate collection of immigrants from China, British India, and the Dutch East Indies, or how to make a living for its people when its former economic role as the entrepot of the region is becoming defunct.
I never had expected that in 1965, at 42, 1 would be in charge of an independent Singapore, responsible for the lives of its 2 million people. From 1959, when I was 35, 1 was prime minister of a self-governing state of Singapore. We joined the Federation of Malaysia in September 1963. There were fundamental disagreements over policies between Singapore and the federal government. All of a sudden, on 9 August 1965, we were out on our own as an independent nation. We had been asked to leave Malaysia and go our own way with no signposts to our next destination.
We faced tremendous odds with an improbable chance of survival. Singapore was not a natural country but man-made, a trading post the British had developed into a nodal point in their worldwide maritime empire. We inherited the island without its hinterland, a heart without a body.
Foreign press comments immediately after independence, all predicting doom, added to my gloom. One writer compared Britain's withdrawal from its colonies to the decline of the Roman Empire when law and order collapsed as the Roman legions withdrew and barbarian hordes took over. Denis Warner wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald (10 August 196 5), "An independent Singapore was not regarded as viable three yearsago. Nothing in the current situation suggests that it is more viable today." In the London Sunday Times (22 August 1965), Richard Hughes wrote, "Singapore's economy would collapse if the British bases costing more than 100 million pounds sterling-were closed." I shared these fears but did not express them: My duty was to give the people hope, not demoralize them.
Indeed one question uppermost in my mind was how long the British would or could keep their bases in Singapore. Would their stay be shortened because of the way separation had taken place? Harold Wilson was already facing opposition from his backbenchers. The "east of Suez" policy was costly and did not help the Labour government win votes. They needed the money for welfare and other vote-winning programs. The only guarantor of security and stability in East Asia, the United States, was deeply mired in a guerrilla war in Vietnam which was extremely unpopular with their European allies and with African and Asian governments. Anti-American propaganda by the Soviets and the People's Republic of China was most effective in the Third World. I felt it would be politically costly, if not impossible, for Singapore to have the Americans take over the role of the British. Australia and New Zealand on their own would not be credible guarantors.
I feared that slowly but inexorably British influence would decline, and American influence expand. For my generation born and bred in empire, it was not an easy change. I had to come to terms with American power without a British buffer. The British had enforced their will with a certain civility. The Americans were different, as I could see from the way they dealt with South Vietnamese leaders, and even with Thai and Filipino leaders who were not in as parlous a position as those in Saigon. America was a power on the ascendant, with bulging muscles and a habit of flexing them.
There was the personal burden of tighter security. It was irksome. Immediately after separation, the police officer in charge of my security had warned me that I had become the number one hate object in the Malaysian Malay-language newspapers and radio and television broadcasts then circulating and receivable in Singapore. He advised me to move from my home on Oxley Road until they had made certain alterations to the house. I had a thick layer of security men instead of just one officer. He also extended discreet security cover for my wife Choo and the children. The threat from racial fanatics was unpredictable, unlike that from the communists who were rational and calculating and would see no benefit in going for Choo or our children. For three to four months, Choo and I stayed at Changi Cottage, a government chalet by the sea, near the RAF Changi airfield and inside a "protected" area. During that time, I held cabinet meetings irregularly, for the drive to my office at City Hall caused traffic disruption with the unaccustomed motorcycle outriders and a security car. I took urgent decisions by telephone conference with the relevant ministers which gave me relief from interminable office meetings. My personal assistants and Wong Chooi Sen, my trusted cabinet secretary, came every day to the cottage from where I worked. Within walking distance was a nine-hole RAF golf course that provided a welcome break from the daily grind of papers and minutes. I would play nine holes, sometimes with a friend, at other times on my own, with Choo walking to keep me company.
Our three children had to attend school, so they stayed at home and put up with the inconvenience of workers erecting a wall of bricks set in honeycomb pattern to screen off our front porch from the road. As a temporary measure, until bullet-proof glass could be obtained, they also blocked our windows with steel plates. This made the rooms feel like prisons, and the whole family felt a tremendous sense of relief when the glass windows were finally installed months later. When I returned to Oxley Road, Gurkha policemen (recruited by the British from Nepal) were posted as sentries. To have either Chinese policemen shooting Malays or Malay policemen shooting Chinese would have caused widespread repercussions. The Gurkhas, on the other hand, were neutral, besides having a reputation for total discipline and loyalty. All this heightened my sense of insecurity and underlined the urgency of building an army to protect our fragile independence...