Opinion

Ian Bremmer

Questions for Graham Allison and Robert D. Blackwill

Ian Bremmer
Feb 20, 2013 22:43 UTC

Graham Allison and Bob Blackwill have important questions to ask about China, America and the extraordinary impact of the relationship of those two countries on the rest of the world. For answers, they turned to Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first premier and one of the world’s most formidable geopolitical thinkers and strategists. The result is a fascinating book called Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World. I had some of my own questions for them. The answers are written responses that Allison and Blackwill wrote together.

Q: Why is Lee Kuan Yew invaluable as a source of insight into China, America and the world? And why is Singapore so important for Asia’s future?

If you were to ask the world’s smartest and most influential people the question, “Who, by virtue of intelligence and life experience, is likely to have the most insightful answers about China, America, and the world?” their answer would be: Lee Kuan Yew.

As Henry Kissinger says in the foreword to our book, “I have had the privilege of meeting many world leaders over the past half century; none, however, has taught me more than Lee Kuan Yew.” Lee has also served as mentor to every Chinese leader from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping and as counselor to every American president from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. The list goes on.

Under his leadership, a small, poor, corrupt port city rose in a single generation to first-world status, and its citizens now enjoy higher annual incomes than Americans. He spearheaded “the rise of the rest” in Asia, which has transformed Singapore’s front yard — the Strait of Malacca — into one of the most important commercial crossroads in the world.

The secret to China’s boom: state capitalism

Ian Bremmer
Nov 4, 2011 18:45 UTC

By Ian Bremmer
The views expressed are his own.

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the world since the 2008 financial crisis can be summed up in one sentence: Security is no longer the primary driver of geopolitical developments; economics is. Think about this in terms of the United States and its shifting place as the superpower of the world. Since World War II, the U.S.’s highly developed Department of Defense has ensured the security of the country and indeed, much of the free world. The private sector was, well, the private sector. In a free market economy, companies manage their own affairs, perhaps with government regulation, but not with government direction. More than sixty years on, perhaps that’s why our military is the most technologically advanced in the world while our domestic economy fails to create enough jobs and opportunities for the U.S. population.

Contrast the U.S. and its free market economy with China’s system.  For years now, that country has experienced double digit growth. Many observers would say that China’s embrace of capitalism since 1978, and especially since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, has been responsible for its boom. They would be mostly wrong. In fact, a new study prepared for the U.S. government says it’s not capitalism that’s powering China, but state capitalism — China’s massive, centrally directed industrial policy, where the government positions huge amounts of capital and labor in economic sectors it intends to nurture. The study, prepared by consultants Capital Trade for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, reads in part:

In a world in which central planning has been so utterly discredited, it would be natural to conclude that the Chinese government and, by extension, the Chinese Communist Party have been abandoning the institutions associated with the communist economic system, such as reliance on state‐owned enterprises (SOEs), as fast as possible. Such conclusion would be wrong.

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