BEIJING, Sep. 25 -- Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has praised China for the remarkable achievements over the past three decades, saying that China's role in regional and international affairs will increase with its higher status and the respect that it has gained.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua recently, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister after the city state's independence from neighboring Malaysia in 1965, attributed China's success over the past 30 years to the reform and opening up.
Lee, who just celebrated his 85th birthday, described the transformation of China since 1978 as "extraordinary", saying China's economy is providing residents ever rising standards of living and better life style.
"In the 70s, big cities like Beijing and Shanghai had decaying buildings, full of bicycles day and night, poorly lighted streets, everyone in grey or blue Mao jackets. Now China's cities, those along the coast, have spanking new high-rises, wide motorways, bridges and tunnels across the Yangtze River to Pudong, Maglev train from the new airport in Shanghai to Pudong, colorful dresses for women and men in lounge suits or in blouses and jeans. The people dress like any modern city in Japan, South Korea, or Singapore," said Lee, one of the key witnesses to the great changes that have taken place in China.
The new high-rises built by Chinese architects, engineers, and workmen are of high standards, so are the wide roads, bridges, airports and container ports, Lee said, adding that more impressive are the rising standards of education of the younger generation and their understanding of free market, economics, finance, banking, law, science and technology.
Lee said he believed that China's focus on education, in expanded and new schools, universities, research institutes and think-tanks will raise the levels of competence of the next generation of Chinese.
In another 40 to 50 years, the gap in science and technology, economics, governance and the rule of law between the advanced countries and China will narrow, he added.
Lee spoke highly of Deng Xiaoping's role in the process of China's reform and opening up, seeing the architect of China's reform and opening up as a Long March veteran who had the strength and the conviction to change the old system that did not work.
"Deng Xiaoping during a southern tour in 1992 urged China to go forth, continue to learn from the outside world, and catch up; also to learn from Singapore where there was good order and do better than Singapore," he said, adding that since 1992, the pace of change in the country gathered speed and China has been growing at 11 percent to 12 percent per annum leading to a peak during the Beijing Olympics this year.
Lee advised China rev up its economy by spending more on infrastructure and encouraging the Chinese people to spend more on consumer goods such as shoes, garments, home appliances, sports equipment and other consumer goods.
As for the construction of a harmonious society in China, Lee stressed that to achieve the harmonious society, China has to spread the benefits of economic development more evenly across the provinces and reduce income disparities, so that the less successful ones do not feel left behind and their children are given equal opportunities to advance through education.
Lee, who visited Beijing and watched the grand opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in August, made positive comments on the event.
"The spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics, the greening of Beijing, with many kilometers of flowers, shrubs and trees, the well managed traffic, in spite of over 200 VIP delegations and many 40,000 athletes, they reflected the organizing capabilities of the Chinese government," he said.
Lee continued to say that the residents of Beijing behaved at their best, especially the one million volunteers who smiled and helped all visitors, leaving a good impression to all.
Lee, who has traveled to China very often since 1976, said that China has learnt whatever it wanted from Singapore, a clean and green city, orderly queues and polite behavior in public.
"China has surpassed Singapore in greening the city. You have kilometers of actual flowers and 40 million flower pots all in bloom along the roads. We could not have done that. I doubt if any other Asian country could have done that," he said.
Lee emphasized that China should deepen and strengthen its ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which also includes Singapore.