Tunnel visions

Kishore Mahbubani

Children at 264 Yio Chu Kang Road, Singapore, circa 1950s. Photo: WikiCommons

The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region
Michael Auslin
Yale University Press (reprint edition): 2018
As a child in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s, I had direct experience of the poverty  that was prevalent throughout most of Asia in the period. When I started primary school, I was put on a special feeding program because I was undernourished. Our home had no flush toilet until I was thirteen. I also experienced ethnic riots in which my neighbours were beaten up. Singapore’s per capita income at its independence in 1965 was the same as Ghana’s: US$500 a year.

Singapore was also a British colony until I turned fifteen. Most historians portray British colonial rule as relatively enlightened. In many ways, it was. However, the psychological consequences of colonial rule were devastating: it created a deep sense of inferiority. Most young people in my time saw little hope for Singapore or for Asia. We thought that the only way to secure a better future for ourselves was to emigrate to Europe or the United States.

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