Among the leaders of Asian countries, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is considered to be a relatively young. There is a Chinese saying: There’s a good shade under a big tree. Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the country in Singapore. Due to his illustrious life and background, it took Lee Hsien Loong less than 14 years from joining the cabinet to become the political leader of this wealthy city of Singapore. He earned the title golden boy of politics.
“Subsidiary Father” Into the Political Arena
Lee Hsien Loong was born in Singapore on February 10, 1952. After graduated from the local Nanyang Girls Catholic Elementary supplementary school and a public high school, he entered the National Junior College. He received a presidential scholarship and an overseas scholarship from the Singapore Armed Forces to study at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Lee Hsien Loong liked mathematics from an early age, and his scores were particularly outstanding, but he was not willing to develop it as a career.
After graduated from Cambridge University in 1974, he turned his research into political and military direction. He studied army command and staff courses in Leavenworth Fort, Kansas, USA in 1978, and was awarded the Kennedy Administration of Harvard University in 1979. He earned Master’s degree in Public Administration. Lee Hsien Loong has a linguistic talent, not only knows both Chinese and English, but also knows Malay and Russian.
Perhaps because of his father’s influence, Lee Hsien Loong has always been deeply interested in the government and national affairs. When he was an 11-year-old elementary school student, he accompanied his father to the constituency to win the support of the voters. After adulthood, his enthusiasm for politics is even greater than that of his interest in mathematics. In Lee Kuan Yew’s Memoirs, he once wrote with mixed feelings: “I didn’t know how much he (Lee Hsien Loong) resembles me until I saw him on TV one day. Lee Hsien Loong was attending a press conference when he made a small move and pulled up his sleeves on his shoulders. This is exactly the same as my movement.” Since then Lee Kuan Yew began planned his Lee Hsien Loong to be his successor.
After studying abroad and returning to Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong first served in the Singaporean army. With his cleverness and skill, his position quickly promoted to the Chief of Staff of the Singapore Armed Forces and Director of the Joint Operations and Planning Division. In June 1984, 32-year-old Lee Hsien Loong was awarded the rank of Brigadier General. In September of the same year, under his father’s persuasion, Lee Hsien Loong, who had not recovered from the pain of losing his wife, ended his military career in the Singapore Armed Forces. He resigned from the military and pursued his political career.
In the early 1980s, Lee Hsien Loong was only a junior minister in the government, responsible for analyzing and studying national economic policies. At that time, his position suddenly became important due to the economic depression. He consulted nearly a thousand industry experts and scholars and drafted a report on how to face the Great Depression for the then National Economic Council. This report was published in 1986 and sensationalized the Lion City. Later, the report was named Singapore in the 21st Century, which is actually the blueprint for Singapore’s future development. Because of his outstanding performance, Lee Hsien Loong was promoted to Minister of Trade and Industry and Second Minister of Defense in 1987.
On May 31st, 2004, the Central Executive Committee of the People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore, in a statement said that in their meeting on the 29th, the agency passed the decision to elect Lee Hsien Loong to be the next Prime Minister. The specific handover time will be announced by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong after completing his mission in July that year. Later, when the congressmen discussed, they almost unanimously voted for Lee Hsien Loong to be the next Prime Minister. The reason for the new comer to be accepted without any objection was because the PAP of Singapore occupied absolute dominance in the Congress. Only two seats were occupied by non-PAP representatives. Soon after careful consideration, Goh Chok Tong announced the title transfer to Lee Hsien Loong on August 12th.
In the morning of August 10th, 2004, the 63-year-old Premier Goh Chok Tong officially submitted his resignation to Singaporean President Nathan, which paved the way for Lee Hsien Loong to become the next Prime Minister of Singapore. On the same day, Lee Hsien Loong also formally accepted the invitation of President Nathan to serve as the third Prime Minister of Singapore and relinquished his chairmanship of the Monetary Authority of Singapore to Goh Chok Tong. In the list of the new government cabinet that he announced on the same day, the retired Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, will serve as the Minister of State Affairs. Lee Hsien Loong’s 80-year-old father, Lee Kuan Yew, will continue to serve as the senior cabinet minister.
Style and Resoluteness: The “Tough” Character in the Eyes of the Public
In general, the impression that Lee Hsien Loong left on the Singapore public is unspoken, straightforward, uncompromising and hard-pressed. This is his unique political charm. Regarding Lee Hsien Loong’s tough style, Singaporeans have been circulating rumors such as: in 1990, Lee Hsien Loong had a quarrel with the then Minister of Finance, Richard Hu, at the cabinet meeting. Another cabinet member, Dhanabalan, supported Richard Hu in the quarrel. In the fierce debate, Lee Hsien Loong slapped Dhanabalan. Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, refused to leak information to the media and asked Lee Hsien Loong to apologize. There are many opinions in Singapore about the Lee Hsien Loong’s tough style. Seng Han Thong, a member of the Singaporean Parliament, believes that the reason why Lee Hsien Loong left a tough impression is related to the hardship in his livelihood and financial issues.
After Lee Hsien Loong re-entered the position of Deputy Prime Minister in 2001, he first faced the severe economic problems caused by the financial crisis in Singapore. In order to stimulate economic development, the new government proposed to “build a new Singapore” and set up an economic restructuring committee led by Lee Hsien Loong from the traditional to the strategic planning of the economy. Based on a comprehensive review of Singapore’s economic development policy, the committee submitted a 200-page report after 14 months of research. The report proposed measures such as expanding exports, reducing expenditures, lowering civil servants’ salaries, discarding improper regulations, reducing taxpayers’ economic burdens, and actively encouraging strategic companies with close ties to the government to develop overseas. These policies were divided into various interest groups and received criticisms. However, Lee Hsien Loong identified the target, withstood the pressure and persisted in its implementation, which played a key role in the Singapore economy’s recession. Most people still believe that his unique style of governance is related to his character, and has nothing to do with his complicated life experience. Facing various obstacles in life, he must learn to be tough, which has left him with an image of an “Iron Man”.
Supporting the AIIB and Rebuilding the “Maritime Silk Road”
On September 7th, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the first proposal in his speech during a visit to Kazakhstan to strengthen the communication policy, road connectivity, smooth trade, currency circulation, and connecting the people, through the “Silk Road Economic Belt” that is jointly built. On October 3rd, 2013, Xi Jinping said in his speech at the Indonesian parliament that China is committed to strengthen the interconnection and construction of ASEAN countries and is willing to work with ASEAN countries to build the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”
Singapore plays an important role in rebuilding the Maritime Silk Road. During his interview with the Chinese media on another occasion during the APEC meeting, Lee Hsien Loong publicly stated that Singapore, with its geographical advantages as a natural harbor, can comprehensively contribute to the Maritime Silk Road initiative by acting as a global logistics, communication and aviation center, and provide services to promote trade between APEC economy.
In addition, Singapore is also actively supporting the proposal of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that was initiated by China. Twenty-one countries including Singapore, China and India signed a memorandum of preparation for the establishment of the AIIB last month. The AIIB is an initiative of Xi Jinping’s visit to Southeast Asia in October 2013.
Singapore is the only developed country involved in the preparation of the AIIB. In response, Lee Hsien Loong said that even if all the members are not developed countries, Singapore will still support the AIIB, because he considered it to be valuable and could make some positive contributions. Lee Hsien Loong also mentioned that China has done a good job in basic investment construction. Whether it is an airport, a high-speed railway, a seaport or a highway, the country has built a lot. “Although China has been building in too many places, generally speaking, they are all valuable,” Lee Hsien Loong said. He further pointed out that other developing countries have not done so well due to problems in funding and investment environment. The AIIB can make certain contributions in terms of capital, management and evaluation capabilities.
At the ceremony of taking oath as Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, who shoulders the heavy responsibilities, vowed to build Singapore into a safe haven, to make people everywhere feel safe, and to make Singaporeans feel warm when they return from the field duties. Can he achieve this goal? Let us look forward to it!