Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

'Light and glory' of Asia example to world

By Zhikai Gao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-25 09:19

'Light and glory' of Asia example to world

Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew speaks to the audience during the Arab and Asian dialogue in Singapore April 27, 2007.[Photo/IC]

While Lee Kuan Yew is known throughout the world, few people outside the Chinese-language communities know the true meaning of Kuan Yew. In Chinese language, "kuan" means light, and "yew" means glory. So, Lee Kuan Yew means Lee the "light and glory".

Singapore's glory since its rebirth in 1965 has been a miracle, largely because of the light of Lee. By 1978, the transformation of Singapore into a modern city-state had become an inspiration for Deng Xiaoping, who having just emerged as the paramount leader of China was looking for a way to lead the country out of isolation and poverty.

Drawing inspiration from Lee and the success story of Singapore, Deng visited the city-state in 1978 and met with Lee for the first time. Lee said that if Singaporeans can do it, China can also do it.

'Light and glory' of Asia example to world

Soon after returning from Singapore, Deng launched a series of reforms in China. Over the subsequent decades, China has continued the reform and opening-up and it is now the second-largest economy in the world. Perhaps it could be said that part of the plan for China's great reform and transformation took shape in Singapore in 1978 during Deng's meetings with Lee. Ever since that fateful visit, China has learned from Singapore the finer points of governance, management and economic growth. No wonder, over the years China has sent many Party, government and corporate officials to receive training in Singapore.

In 1994, the Singapore Industrial Park in Suzhou, Jiangsu province (now renamed the Suzhou Industrial Park) was set up. Over the years, the industrial park has become a testing ground for many new reform programs in China, including those for social security, venture capital and private equity.

More recently, President Xi Jinping emphasized that China can still learn many things from Singapore.

Today, many people talk about the 21st century being the "Asian century" or the "Asia-Pacific century", while others have started talking of the "Asian dream". But Lee was one of the first Asians who truly stood out and demonstrated to the world that Asians can make a difference in terms of global growth and development. Lee's legacy is based on a solid and healthy dosage of pragmatism, realism, innovation, and commitment to making a better tomorrow.

After 50 years of constant innovation and ceaseless efforts, Singapore is the most developed country among the 10 ASEAN member states, one of the most developed countries in Asia and one of the most successful economies in the world. Rather than being caught up in the day-to-day travails, Lee always chose to stand on the top of the mountain and look beyond the horizon to see deep into the future, which made him a leader of wisdom, courage and vision.

The author, an English interpreter for Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, is chairman of China Energy Security Institute.

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