CNN’s Fareed Zakaria asks Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong a few questions about China in a recent interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Fareed Zakaria: You’ve also said something similar about China, that China is changing, the political system will have to adapt. But what does that mean?
Lee Hsien Loong: Well, if you look at China over the last 20 years, it’s been a tremendous change. You may think that it’s a continuity because it’s still the Communist Party in charge. But the way that people think, the way that people are informed about the world, the way they discuss issues, the way they have to accommodate interest groups when they make decisions, the way that people travel, and know what’s happening. I think today’s China is very different from China 20 years ago.
Today’s Singapore is very different from Singapore ten years ago. And I’m sure in ten years time it will be different again.
FZ: Do you think China will be trusted as the dominant power in Asia? If you look at the last year where China made these pushes in the South China Sea, Japan in that episode with the ship, it seemed like it provoked a very strong backlash in Asia.
LHL: Well, every superpower or big country has to be looked on with a certain careful respect by others not quite so huge, even the United States. But the United States after sixty plus years in the Pacific since the war, is still welcome and is still considered benign. And that is really a good example for the Chinese to seek to emulate.
FZ: Do you think that the forces within China that are for that kind of a conciliatory approach versus a more hardline approach are gaining or losing strength right now?
LHL: I think the generation which saw the war, the generation which experienced the Cultural Revolution will know the limits and will understand that the priority is to make sure that China is well internally, and not to push their weight around externally. The generation which grew up as China is prospering and rising, and is proud of so many things — fast trains, Olympic games, cosmonauts (or astronauts, taikonauts) — so many achievements, whether they will have the same balance and perspective is the 64,000 dollar question.