Singapore : Unlikely Power

3.85 (56 ratings by Goodreads)
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When Lee Kuan Yew died recently, the world media turned its attention to the nation he led for decades: Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew's revolutionary transformation of Singapore from a poor and corrupt colonial backwater into an economic powerhouse renowned for its wealth, order, and rectitude is one of the great-and most surprising-stories of modern era. In Singapore: Unlikely Power, John Perry provides an evenhanded and authoritative history of the island nation that ranges from its Malay origins to the present day. Blessed with a natural deepwater port that is shielded by mountain ranges from oceanic storms and which sits along one of the most strategic straits in the world, Singapore has served as a major shipping entrepot throughout modern history. The first great naval power to exploit the island's strategic location was China, and during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries thousands of Chinese emigrated to Singapore. The most famous colonizer, though, was Britain, which ruled Singapore until the 1960s except for when the Japanese occupied it during World War Two.
From the early nineteenth century onward, Singapore was a vital node in the global economy, which relied on oceanic shipping and the protection of the British Navy. Perry covers all of this before turning to the era of independence, which began in the 1960s. Plagued with the usual assortment of ills that former colonies in the tropics suffered from-corruption, inequality, lack of an educated population-Singapore improbably vaulted from essentially third-world status into a first world dynamo over the course of three decades. In the process, longtime leader Lee Kuan Yew did many things that other post-colonial leaders shunned. He embraced the colonial past, established close ties with its World War Two tormentor (Japan), and adopted a resolutely pragmatist approach to economic development rather than following any one fashionable ideological program. Today, it is one of the wealthiest and best educated countries in the world, and it is a model regime for states looking to develop rapidly but which are relatively unconcerned with freedom or democracy (although Singapore itself is a democracy).
In sum, this is an accessible, comprehensive, and indeed colorful overview of a city-state that has perfected one of the most influential political-economic models in the world.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 360 pages
  • 163 x 237 x 29mm | 600g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0190469501
  • 9780190469504
  • 95,794

Table of contents

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Review quote

"John Perry, a maritime and diplomatic historian, provides a unique perspective on Singapore, a remarkable port city that, like Hong Kong and Bahrain, was a British colony and became the business, service, and intellectual headquarters for a region. He traces here how Singapore, a multi-racial, multi-cultural city, has developed unique social policies and officials who provide world-class leadership in the councils of the world." --Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, emeritus, Harvard University; author of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

"The story of Singapore is the story of the 21st century: asymmetric and creative approaches to foreign policy that provide opportunity, stability, and multicultural engagement. There is so much to learn from the City of Lions, and John Curtis Perry is the perfect guide. This is a profoundly important book for anyone studying international relations." --Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret), NATO Supreme Allied Commander 2009-2013, and Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

"For narrative, perfection of pace; for description, a lively eye; for scholarship, tenacity and depth; breadth for the delineation of context and comparisons; insight in character-depiction, and provocation in judgement: John Perry has the qualities to make enlightening work of his study of 'the Singapore grip': the city-state's stunning story of response to daunting challenges." --Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, William P. Reynolds Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

"John Perry's brisk and engaging Singapore: Unlikely Power situates the Southeast Asian city-state in its historical context, and shows convincingly how over the course of two centuries visionary leaders have fused political will and geographic advantage to create a globalized economic powerhouse." --Lincoln Paine, author of The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World

"Meticulously researched and holistic in approach, Perry's narrative seamlessly balances insights and perspectives on the past, present and future of the island and region. An ideal read for anyone who has wondered about the global forces that created the modern commercial city-state-and why it exists where it does." --Daniel Finamore, Russell W. Knight Curator of, Maritime Art and History, Peabody Essex Museum
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About John Curtis Perry

Professor of Maritime History, Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
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Rating details

56 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 18% (10)
4 54% (30)
3 25% (14)
2 4% (2)
1 0% (0)
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