TBT To Lee Kuan Yew

January 20th, 2019

In “Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew”, Fareed Zakaria interviews the former prime minister of Singapore, the leader who helped boost Singapore’s economy to one of the most developed countries in the world, with an authoritarian regime. Throughout the entire conversation, Mr. Lee emphasized the difference between the culture of the West and the East, warning that although the West leads the world in science and technology development, the East will not abandon its tradition in order to fully assimilate to the West, economically and politically. On the other hand, the interviewer explicitly implicates that he believes that culture will change and alter the course of development, accordingly to the modernization theory of democratization.

Reuters reported that Singaporean government plans on scanning eyes at the immigration check of Changi Airport as an effort to try a new expensive technology that could potentially replace the fingerprints check at airports and immigration. This is one of the first steps towards using facial recognition in airports and around the country as well. The technology is supposed to increase the safety of the people, and the Singaporean government also pledges to warrant the privacy of its citizen and travelers.

Does the surge of technological advancement lead the country towards the West’s culture and ideas, or does it further enhance the policing and pervasiveness of tradition?

Despite the promise that they will be respecting the citizens’ privacy, the use of this new technology signals the tightening of security and policing that the Singaporean government is imposing on the country. This shows that even though Mr. Lee, the regime remains highly authoritarian and aims at increasing its control. Compared to the “perfect dictatorship” of Mexico under the PRI, Singapore has a greater level of control and limited competition for power, as all the prime ministers are appointed by the former ones.

Sources:

Fareed Zakaria and Lee Kuan Yew, “Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 2, April 1994.

“Singapore Tests Eye Scans at Immigration Checkpoint-media,” Reuters (August 2018).

Putin’s Little Board Game

February 7, 2019

In her article, Julia Ioffe examines Putin’s motivation and intent behind the manipulation of the U.S. elections. She cites the Putin administration’s fear of losing legitimacy and power in the domestic as well as the international scheme as the main reason, stating the failure of Putin to revamp the economy and maintain the sustainable trust from his people. His resistance from the Westernization and privatization of economy is challenged as Ukraine is leaning towards the EU. Putin also feels threatened by Navalny, the only political opposition force that has recently emerged in Russia.

Image result for putin

Last week, the U.S. pulled out of the INF Treaty signed in 1983 by both Russia and the U.S., banning short and medium-range missiles from both countries in an effort to ease the Cold War tensions. Russia followed earlier this week, planning to create land-based missiles in the next two years. Both sides accused each other of violating this treaty multiple times before officially ending the treaty. According to the article, the U.S. fears threats from multiple forces, especially China, as the main reason to prepare militarily.

Is this a new arms race a source of confidence and legitimacy for the Putin administration? Do Putin’s worries about his longevity and legitimacy motivate this action for Russia?

According to Ioffe, Russia is preparing a new generation of techies and hackers, people with highly trained computer science skills in preparations of advanced espionage and vandalization of international politics. This restores a sense of pride and a feel of “world power” in the administration and in the people who are fervent nationalists. Therefore, the increase in military force and advanced weapons will reasonably act as the same factor, but in a different sense. They all show Putin’s insecurity about his remaining in power and his shaky legitimacy.

Sources:

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Game,” The Atlantic, February 2018.

“INF Nuclear Treaty: Russia Plans Out New Missile Systems After Pullout,” BBC, 5 February 2019,