LKY: Mao Promoted Perpetual Struggle; Deng Saved China from Chaos

Mao Promoted Perpetual Struggle; Deng Saved China from Chaos

by Lee Kuan Yew | Aug 8, 2013

Mao’s successor drew lessons from Singapore’s economic development


On October 1, 1949, at the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing, Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Revolution, declared the founding of the modern People’s Republic of China. Mao was an idealist who strove for constant class struggle as a way to keep the Chinese from becoming bourgeois. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, in 1967-69, schools and universities were closed, and children were encouraged to hit and rebel against their parents. Mao was, of course, a famous leader and liberator, but he was less practical when it came to governing the country.

More practical was Deng Xiaoping, who quietly took control after Mao’s death, calmed the country and concentrated on its economic development. Were it not for him, China might well have broken apart.In November 1978, Deng made his first and only visit to Singapore. What he saw on that visit changed the course of economic policy in the coastal provinces of China. At dinner he congratulated me on Singapore’s accomplishments. I told him that with its wealth of talent China could surpass Singapore.
Deng warned us of the Russian bear using Vietnam as its cat’s paw to control Southeast Asia. I told him that the Soviet Union was far away but all the exhortations for the overthrow of local governments in Southeast Asia were coming from broadcasting stations in China and that the arms finding their way to the insurgents were being provided by China. He unexpectedly asked, “What do you want me to do?” I replied, “Stop it!” He responded, “Give me time.” A year later the broadcasts stopped. Deng may have been short of stature, but he was a giant of a leader.

Equal To The Challenge
Inspired, Deng returned home to form four special economic zones, which he opened to foreign investment and world trade. These zones prospered, and more subsequently opened. (This trend culminated in China joining the WTO in 2001.)

In 1992, Deng went to Guangdong and told the people, “Learn from the world, especially from Singapore. There is good social order there. They govern with discipline. We should draw from their experience—and we will do even better than they.” Those comments resulted in hundreds of delegations from all over China descending on Singapore, ready to study the ins and outs of our economic development.

We, however, felt the best way for China to learn our methods was through the practical experience of a joint project, building an industrial park for business, commercial, residential, leisure and industrial purposes. The Suzhou Industrial Park project began in 1994. We invited a few hundred Chinese officials to come study our methods; then we sent them back with some of our experts, who helped with the implementation and made sure the Chinese got things right. Suzhou became a model of how to industrialise while keeping an industrial park green and clean.

Students now come from China to Singapore every year to take the ‘Mayors’ Class’ at the Nanyang Centre for Public Administration. Students are upper-level officials in the central and local governments or in state-owned enterprises and are chosen by the Communist Party. The one-year course is conducted entirely in Chinese. Former cabinet ministers who have played a role in Singapore’s development share their expertise with the students. In 2010, another school, the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, also began accepting senior Chinese officials as students.

When Deng said to his people, “We will do even better than they”, he had not forgotten what I had said during his visit. Deng believed China was equal to the challenge—and within 20 years China proved him right.

Lee Kuan Yew is a former Prime Minister of Singapore

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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