Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wikileaks : Advice to the US on China -- what Lee Kuan Yew told Steinberg

It is well known that many US officials who are keen to learn more about Asia, especially the rise of China, has sought the views of elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore. Much of the speculations from dubious sources (also stemmed from Wikileaks) do not have the connections and profound understanding of Chinese history, system of government, economy and people.

WikiLeaks: What Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg (on May 30, 2009)

MM Lee said he believes Japan may well ‘go nuclear’ (if North Korea becomes a nuclear power).

MM Lee said the Chinese do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Chinese do not want North Korea, which China sees as a buffer state, to collapse. The ROK (South Korea) would take over in the North and China would face a U.S. presence at its border. If China has to choose, Beijing sees a North Korea with nuclear weapons as less bad for China than a North Korea that has collapsed ... 

MM Lee expressed worry about the effect on Iran if the DPRK (North Korea) persists (in its nuclear ambitions). MM Lee said he believes the DPRK can be contained and will not proliferate, but Iran has very high ambitions, ties to Shiite communities outside Iran, and oil wealth.

MM Lee said the ROK (South Korea), after seeing what had happened with German unification, does not want immediate unification with the DPRK (North Korea). There is ‘nothing there’ in the DPRK, other than a military organization. Kim Jong-Il has already had a stroke. It is just a matter of time before he has another stroke. The next leader may not have the gumption or the bile of his father or grandfather. He may not be prepared to see people die like flies. China is calculating all this. They have their best men on the job. They want to help the United States to advance common objectives. But they do not want the South to take over the North, MM Lee said.

...  in the absence of a social safety net in China, the Chinese savings rate is 55 percent, exceeding even Singapore’s 50 percent level. Consumption accounts for only 35 percent of Chinese GDP, as opposed to 70 percent of U.S. GDP. The Chinese leadership may be loath to shift permanently to a more consumption-oriented economy, but the leadership will do so temporarily, if only to avoid unrest… The pragmatists are in charge. There is nothing Communist about it. They just want to preserve one party rule…  
MM Lee said China is following an approach consistent with ideas in the Chinese television series The Rise of Great Powers. The mistake of Germany and Japan had been their effort to challenge the existing order. The Chinese are not stupid; they have avoided this mistake. China’s economy has surpassed other countries, with the exceptions of Japan and the United States. Even with those two countries, the gap is closing, with China growing at seven-nine percent annually, versus two-three percent in the United States and Japan. Overall GDP, not GDP per capita, is what matters in terms of power. China has four times the population of the United States. China is active in Latin America, Africa, and in the Gulf. Within hours, everything that is discussed in ASEAN meetings is known in Beijing, given China’s close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, he stated.

... the best course for the US is to build ties with China’s young people. China’s best and brightest want to study in the United States, with the UK as the next option, then Japan. While they are there, it is important that they be treated as equals, with the cultural support they may need as foreigners…Why not have Chinese cadets at West Point alongside Vietnamese cadets and Indian cadets?… MM Lee noted that his own experience as a student in the UK had left him with an enduring fondness for the UK. When he spent two months at Harvard in 1968, an American professor had invited him home for Thanksgiving. This was not the sort of thing that happened in the UK, and Lee had realized he was dealing with a different civilization. In the future, China’s leaders will have PhDs and MBAs from American universities, he predicted.

(The document which was originally posted on whistleblowing site  has been disabled by the powers that be.)

Two leaders but with totally different assessments. You would recall that in another Wikileaks revelation, Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (last Prime Minister) talked tough and told his US counterpart Hilary Clinton that Australia to go to war with China should the latter fail to integrate with the international order.  The US despite being a strong miliary ally of Taiwan, Japan and North Korea would not fathom this as a likely scenario.  Given that China enjoys economic properity under peaceful circumstances, alternative avenues have been built to avoid using force for reunification and foreign policies. Rudd has been described as a boastful Mandarin speaking control freak by his own colleagues. His belligerent advice is uncalled for. There is much the western world could learn from LKY who is seen as the bridge between East and West.

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