The speech: http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/mr-lee-leader-high-sensitivity-who-imparted-lessons-world
(TODAY, 5th October, 2015)
One reason why Singapore had such good international relations was Mr Lee being in a loyal yet frank relation with leaders in US and China. His frankness is perceived as the kind of frankness that a loyal friend would have towards the other. The relationships have been sustained over time beyond the principle of the benefit for Singapore, but more of a caring relationship for a friend's need.
Our economy has prospered because of ties of trust built across the two nations.
Today countries will assess us again, not based on the merit of our founding PM. There is no replacement for Mr Lee and his personality. How would Singapore continue to built ties around the same principle of mutual respect, commadarie and principled ethos with world leaders? Mr Lee has an astute capability of reading people, and this is a form of protection for Singapore. International colleagues change over time, and this complicates the matter of foreign affairs.
It struck me that Kessinger reported Mr Lee's views on US-China balance in Asia, and his concept of China having the ambition to subject other nations to its control in some way:
"His position towards China was extremely ambivalent.
On the one hand, he was Chinese and, I think, spoke Mandarin at home. But on the other hand, he was well-versed in history, so he knew that a powerful China would automatically seek to reduce the other countries in the region into, sort of, tributary states. He thought that was in the nature of things; he did not try to reform the Chinese, but accepted their traditional conception of the “Central Kingdom” as a fact of life. The way to deal with this reality, he said, was to keep America in Asia, and then the Chinese, being smart, and the Americans, hopefully, being smart, would be able to achieve a kind of equilibrium between themselves in which Singapore could live."
Mr Lee has always been frank about his views. This is the merit to his foreign relations, because other world leaders know where his position is, yet his is neither for or against issues or people personally but more analytically.
The point about China's ambition seems to be derived from a reading of history.
For the present, though China is stressing about its peaceful rise, she makes no secret of her ambition to rise as a world power. However the way she is now imposing her power is not projecting her in the best of light -- by claiming territory based on her own authority without wanting to submit to international scrutiny. Being Chinese, I can read the Chinese mind and the traditional Chinese way of doing things. A "Chinese" (term used here and other places to refer race, not nationality), if not educated in the Western world, has a tendency not to speak his or her mind clearly. Nor is he or she happy to be totally transparent with the inner motives. The factor for this is the issue of "face", and things tend to be wrapped up nicely, like a gift. From a Chinese perspective, the best way for the One Belt and Road is to appear as far as possible a "humanitarian", seeking to help developing nations. The intention of the "occupation of the South China Sea"-- as what I see the whole issue of land reclamation and the wish to militarize some parts of the islands, staking a claim to the air territorial control to be -- has put down the international image of China. Even though it may succeed in its economic aims or even militarily, it would not gain the trust of the international community, since there are some incongruences in the image it projects.
To work at the issue of a beneficial rise of China, the international community must uphold international code of conduct and the international law. To learn a lesson in this respect is also helpful to China for her engagement of the international community. The past mild image of China is a better way forward for her rise, though I can say that whether the image is mild or autocratic going forward, the internal ambition and motivation would stay the same.
As a Chinese in race, and having grown up in a traditionally Chinese family, my antennas are telling me the whole issue will get very big if it is not controlled the right way at an early stage, since even the international law cannot control China, then only force is left as the alternative, and China is bulldozing its way despite objections internationally. There is a issue of "face" again. This time the face to face her own citizens if the projects fail.
We all hope to have peace in the international community, so the rule of law is paramount in the whole affair.
(The views here are not even close in any way to the views of the Singapore government.)