Comparing John Key To Lee Kuan Yew Is Insulting Lee Kuan Yew

A few weeks ago, a meme started up around comparing John Key to Lee Kuan Yew. It is completely wrong and insulting to compare John Key to possibly  the most successful leader of the 20th century.

Think I’m wrong? Well, you obviously know nothing about how Singapore was created out of nothing and how the firm hand of Lee Kuan Yew was able to suppress inter-racial conflict, turn many Singaporean citizens into millionaires with high skill jobs and a country that adds an enormous amount of value to the global economy.

Singapore works. New Zealand works for some people but not for others. During his tenure, Singapore grew from a run down colonial trading post to a financial and trade powerhouse. Hell, even a sizeable proportion of the petrol NZ uses to fill its tanks was refined in Singapore!

Obviously I’m talking about economic opportunities – the only opportunities that matter in the consumer society. Probably because it is closer to key Asian markets, doing business from Singapore is a bit easier than doing business from Auckland. But one of the key ways Singapore has succeeded is that numpties have been banned from participating in politics.

These sorts of throwaway comparisons are why journalists don’t really have the right to call themselves professionals. In terms of comparing Key to LKY it is simply an indication of historical and political ignorance. Why oh why can’t we have a better media?

Whilst John Key has presided over a silent recovery, he has not done anything on the scale that LKY achieved. He may have been inspired by his time living and working in Singapore but whatever policies he has proposed have been so watered down he may as well not have bothered!

It also must be mentioned that LKY’s success in Singapore – made up of both Chinese and Malay – was an inspiration to Deng Xiaoping – who kickstarted China’s “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”. The hundreds of millions of people who were raised out of poverty in China over the past 30 years are analogous to some of the former Chinese fishermen who are now business leaders in Singapore.

As someone who reads extremely widely and often, it is really disappointing when the media in New Zealand reveal how thick they truly are. It is even sadder when a good columnist does so. It isn’t hard to avoid faceplant style comparison like this – just a general sense of the history of the region this country trades with and has strong relationships with!

This was a really silly comparison, but is to be expected when the benefits of Chinese immigration and investment are never explored in detail. The media is only too keen to champion xenophobic investment restrictions and give oxygen to people who don’t understand the free lunch New Zealand is getting from this interaction with foreigners.