In this book, Lee draws on that wealth of experience and depth of insight to offer his views on today's world and what it might look like in 20 years.

One Man’s View of the World is a book written in 2012 by Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew is one of the most impressive leaders of the 21st century. In 1965, Singapore was dejected from Malaysia for not being Malay enough. In only a few decades, Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore into one of the richest countries in the world.

  • Every country needs one language that everybody understands.
  • To be a leader, you must accept other people becoming rich because you are governing well!
  • The world is better off and will grow much more quickly under capitalism because the free market is the most efficient way of organizing the productive forces in any society, as history has proven. The world is a much better place now than before. By and large, less hungry people, and fewer unemployed people.
  • Alternative sources of energy like Solar and wind are too small and uncertain. They can play an important supplementary role but will never replace the traditional sources of energy. In the long run, many countries will slowly begin to find nuclear energy more attractive. The shale revolution may have pushed this further down the road, but the share of nuclear energy in the world’s total power output is likely to grow.
  • The threat of a global recession triggered by spiraling oil prices that confronted the world on so many occasions in the past is much reduced today.
  • Traveling overseas helps one widen their horizons. Countries develop. No country or city stays static.
  • Any real estate that you plant on the ground, belongs to the owner of the ground. So, relationships between the countries turn sour, the inter-country investments can be at risk.
  • As the women get an education, their mindsets change, they want to travel first, see the world, enjoy life, and marry later, by which time they will have trouble having children.
  • With technological advances, everybody today knows how everybody else lives. The poorest in Asia and Africa are keenly aware of just how poor they are compared to the Americans, Europeans as well as well-to-do Asians and Africans. This has encouraged legal and illegal migrants to try to cross national boundaries to get better jobs and living conditions in the countries that are wealthier and offer them more economic opportunities
  • Death should come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with the body being incapacitated, half in a coma in bed, and with a tube going into the nostrils and down to the stomach. In such cases, one is little more than a body.


  • For 5,000 years, the Chinese have believed that the country is safe only when the center is strong. Culturally and historically, the belief in China is that a strong central authority leads to peace and prosperity. One man, one vote has never been in China and has never produced a prosperous China. And they’re not going to try it. In China, there is the rule of the leader. What the leader says is the law.
  • The length of China’s expressways grew from less than 100 km in 1988 to 74,000 km in 2010, second in the world only to the United States.
  • China is not suffering a brain drain to the same extent that India is.
  • China will never let go of Taiwan. Even if they lose the first round, they will come back for a second round, then a third round, and a fourth-round – incessantly, until they win. It’s not worth it for America. The Taiwanese will realize that over time if they have not already done so.
  • China will not be able to project power in the Indian Ocean. Nor will India succeed in projecting power into the Pacific Ocean.
  • Chinese are skillful in dealing with foreign countries, or foreign barbarians, for thousands of years and they know how to play them one by one and prevent them from coalescing so they don’t have to face a group. They buy them off one at a time.
  • One day, China will regret its one-child policy.
  • When the resources of cheap labor are exhausted, the Chinese economy will slow down.


  • You need a strong economy to project power – to fund the building of warships, aircraft, and military bases.
  • The success of America lies in its dynamic economy, sustained by an uncanny ability not just to produce the same with less, but to constantly innovate – that is, to invent completely new goods and services that the rest of the world soon finds to be useful and desirable.
  • There will be economic and technological contests, and talent is the key ingredient in those contests. And America leads in that.
  • Chinese is an extremely difficult language to learn. Further, in Chinese civilization, when the center is strong, the country prospers. And the country prospers because the center makes sure that everybody obeys the center. In America it’s different. Nobody obeys Washington or New York. Anybody can start another center if they’ve got money.
  • Even Britain and France cannot match the Americans. In France, everyone who is bright ends up in the grandes écoles. In Britain, it is Oxbridge. These countries are relatively small, compact, and therefore more uniform.
  • If you want the competitiveness that America currently has, you cannot avoid creating a considerable gap between the top and the bottom, and the development of an underclass. If you choose instead the welfare state, as Europe did after the Second World War, you naturally become less dynamic.
  • Americans can never hope to put Afghanistan right. The Americans wanted to build a government from scratch in Iraq and democratize an ancient people. The former is near impossible, the latter is simply impossible.
  • The problem with the Americans is that they go in believing they have the power to change the system.
  • Some nations are like trees, they grow tall and straight, and they do not need support. And some nations are like creepers, they depend on a tree and they creep up the tree.


  • The Europeans, more or less all of them, from Kent to Naples and from Istanbul to Lisbon, have been brought up as Christians since almost 2,000 years ago. On the other hand, in their practical policies, they have fought one war after the other despite the Christian ideology. They have done the opposite of what they have been taught and what they have learned by heart. They’re ridiculous people.
  • Bitter years await Europe. As all the signs point to the impossibility of integration. The fundamental problem with the euro is that you cannot have monetary integration without fiscal integration. I am not convinced, therefore, that the euro can be saved, at least not in its present form, with all 17 countries remaining in the fold. European Union as an enterprise that was misconceived by too fast enlargement and likely to fail.
  • The first thing Europeans need is a common language and the rational choice is English as a second language for everybody.
  • If one were to keep accounts, that state in the United States might be running deficits for years – but it is a sustainable situation precisely because nobody is keeping accounts. The people living in that state are considered fellow Americans and the people living elsewhere do not actually expect the money to be repaid. It is effectively a gift.
  • The European welfare system promotes inefficiency and inaction. The welfare system “generates its own demand”.
  • The most pernicious effect of the welfare state, however, lies not in its inflexibility or its unaffordable nature but in the negative effect it has on the individual’s motivation to strive.
  • Seven of the top ten countries with the strictness of labor laws were also in the top ten in terms of high unemployment.
  • The Europeans are not as competitive as the Americans.
  • The welfare system has not produced scintillating results for the British.


  • The sense of teamwork in the Japanese workforce gives them an edge over other countries. The Koreans and the Chinese may be able to match them individually for individually. But team for team, the Japanese are unequaled.
  • The most serious challenge facing Japan is demographic.
  • Singapore’s problem with low birth rates is not dissimilar from Japan’s. But there is one key difference: Singapore shaded its problem with immigrants.
  • Foreigners currently make up less than 1.2 percent of all residents in Japan, compared to 6 percent in Britain, 8 percent in Germany, and 10 percent in Spain.

North Korea

  • Far from being a socialist heaven-on-earth, North Korea is one of the worst-run countries in the world, failing even in the most basic of tasks, such as ensuring that the population is fed.
  • It is held together by a cult, and if the cult figure collapses – as is inevitable when you open up to the world and implement free-market reforms – the country will collapse.
  • In the end, it is your industrial capacity that determines your national strength, not the number of ships and guns you have.
  • While reunification is their long-term desire and eventual goal, the South Koreans have decided that the economic costs of a Korea reunited overnight – say, by mutual agreement – will be so horrendous to the South that it is preferable to delay it for the time being.
  • China wants a divided Korea as well. In general, you are in a more comfortable position when your neighbors remain fragmented.
  • Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi gave in to the West’s demands and got rid of his nuclear weapons, only to find that when a domestic uprising took place, there was nothing to restrain France and the United States from entering the fray to support the rebels. The Koreans are among the toughest of all the peoples in their region because Korea was where the invading hordes of Mongolia stopped. They had trouble crossing the waters to invade Japan and many just settled in Korea.


  • If you speak English, 200 million out of 1.2 billion people will be able to understand you. If you speak Hindi, you have the ears of about 500 million people. If you speak Tamil, you have only 60 million people or so. It is a great handicap for any prime minister of India because no single prime minister can speak all the languages.
  • The Chinese can bring out a seven-month-old fetus, as was reported in the news in September 2012. A heavily pregnant woman in Shaanxi province, Feng Jianmei, was forced to undergo an abortion because she had not sought official permission for her pregnancy. That’s how the central system works. India simply does not have the will to even make such rules, let alone enforce them.
  • The caste system stratifies society. Supposing your society suddenly came up with a new rule that said university graduates cannot marry non-graduates without automatically losing social status, where would your society end up?
  • democracy is no magic potion. It does not solve all problems for all people.


  • Malaysia’s race-based policies place the country at a disadvantage. It is voluntarily shrinking the talent pool needed to build the kind of society that makes use of talent from all races.
  • The second-generation kids of Indians and Chinese rush to Europe and the Americas away from race-based policies.
  • Malaysia is likely to make greater strides than Indonesia. It is more compact geographically. There is also better transportation and a more driven workforce.


  • Suharto may have failed in corruption and nepotism. But history will also judge him on outcomes, which speak for themselves: he educated the people, grew the economy, and built roads and infrastructure.
  • The decentralization helped Indonesia a lot but shifting powers into the hands of the decision-makers.
  • Malaysia is more openly Islamic than Indonesia. There may be subtle changes taking place in Indonesia because of the influence of the Saudis.


  • The Vietnamese are among the most capable and energetic people in Southeast Asia but they are still locked in the socialist mindset.
  • Vietnamese belief is that when you had an investor ambushed in a corner, it was your chance to squeeze as much out of him as you could.


  • If Singapore does not take in immigrants and foreign workers, Singapore country would tank.
  • China or India can boost domestic consumption. Singapore can’t.
  • If, in the end, Singapore decides to move towards a two-party system, then we are destined for mediocrity. The biggest problem with the two-party system is that once it is in place, the best people will choose not to be in politics. Singapore is a small country with no natural resources and is in the middle of a region that has been volatile historically. Special leadership is required here.

Middle East

  • the Middle East also lacks vital social factors that form the foundation on which democracy must stand.
  • the basic unit in the polity is not the citizen but the tribe.
  • The religious police have a deal with the royal family in Saudi Arabia: the latter gets to deal with the fortunes of the country while the former is almost assured free rein over all religious matters
  • In a place that produces suicide bombers who say, “I want to die and I want more of you to die”, anything can happen.