Pankaj Mishra spoke to Basharat Peer about his exploration of China, the Indian encounter with China and East […]
Of all the themes of the book (LEE KUAN YEW: THE GRAND MASTER’S INSIGHTS ON CHINA, THE UNITED STATES, AND THE WORLD BY GRAHAM ALLISON, ROBERT BLACKWILL AND ALI WYNE, MIT PRESS), the single most important, of course, is China, and its global equation with the United States. And who better to discuss that than Lee, who has been a mentor to Chinese leaders going back to Deng Xiao Ping, as well as to American presidents going back to Nixon. We can, he cautions us, expect to see China assert itself as the No. 1 power in Asia—and ultimately in the world. The Chinese have calculated that they need perhaps fifty years to build up their capabilities—economic, technological and military—and then make the ultimate transition from communism to the market system. Until then the dictum is, apparently, “Keep your head down, and smile for forty or fifty years”. But after that, perhaps circa 2060, the smile is likely to be switched off. China cannot forget its dominant historical position as the ‘Middle Kingdom’, to which lesser nations offered tribute, Lee explains, and a sense of reawakened destiny now drives them to reclaim that position.