RIP… the most admired man in Singapore history.
I’ve kept this copy for years as the man I admired most in my life was on the cover. It was sold out. I wanted it so much that I got a friend working in the Ministry of Defence to help me. A precious copy that I will keep in remembrance of our great leader. It was also because of this magazine that I got to know God. Long story… anyway I extracted a part from the magazine. How one great man changed the world when he met another giant man.
TIME: Who’s the most impressive person you’ve met in your public life?
LKY: Deng Xiaoping
TIME: We knew you’d say that. But tell us why?
LKY: I met this small man when he came to Singapore in Nov ’78. This small four-foot-eleven man, but a giant of a leader. He gave me a long spiel – the Russian bear, Vietnam was his Cuba in the Far East, danger for you. I had provided him with a Ming vase spittoon, and I put an ashtray in front of him. He neither smoked nor used the spittoon. The same arrangements at dinner. He did not use either. At dinner he said, “I must congratulate you, you’ve done a good job in Singapore.” I said, “Oh, how’s that?” He said, “I came to Singapore on my way to Marseilles in 1920. It was a lousy place. You have made it a different place.” I said, “Thank you. Whatever we can do, you can do better. We are descendants of south China. You have the mandarins, the writers, the thinkers and all the bright people. You can do better.” He looked at me, but said nothing. In Nov 1992, during his famous tour of the southern provinces, he said, “Learn from Singapore”, and “Do better than them”. I thought, oh, he never forget what I said to him.
But what impressed me was, the next day in our talks in Singapore, I said, “You spent all this time to convince me why we should fight the Russian bear. Let me tell you that my neighbours want me to join them to fight you, you’re the man who’s giving us trouble. All this communist insurgency and your broadcasts urging them on and so on.” He screwed his eyes, peered at me, and asked, “What do you want me to do?” I said, “Stop it.” One young man telling an old grizzly, guerilla fighter: “Stop it.” He said, “Give me time.” Eighteen months later he stopped it. That man faced reality. I’m convinced that his visit to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, that journey in Nov ’78 was a shock to him. He expected a three third-world cities; he saw three second-world cities, better than Shanghai and Beijing. As his aircraft door closed, I turned around to my colleagues, I said, [his aides] are getting a shellacking. They gave him the wrong brief. Within weeks, People’s Daily switched lines, that Singapore is no longer a running dog of the Americans, it’s a very nice city, a garden city, good public housing, very clean place. They changed their line. And he changed to “open door” policy. After a lifetime as a communist, at the age of 74, he persuaded his Long March contemporaries to return to a market economy.