Former PM Lee Kuan Yew conferred honorary doctorate by Russia

Former PM Lee Kuan Yew conferred honorary doctorate by Russia

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was conferred the title of 'Honorary Doctor of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation' on May 22.

Singapore's Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Ms Lim Kheng Hua, accepted the title on Mr Lee's behalf from the Academy's Rector Mr Evgeny Bazhanov in a ceremony held in Moscow today.

The title is bestowed upon Russian and foreign scholars, diplomats, political and public figures for outstanding achievements in the fields of theoretical research and diplomacy and for contributions to promote mutual understanding between Russia and the rest of the world.

Below is the acceptance speech delivered on behalf of Mr Lee Kuan Yew by Ms Lim:

I thank the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation for the honour that they have given to me and through me, to Singapore.

Singapore and Russia enjoy stable and cordial relations, even if we do not always see eye-to-eye on every international issue. It would be unusual if we did. Russia is a vast, continental country stretching from Europe to the Pacific, a nuclear weapon state and a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, with a rich and complex history. Singapore is a small city state, barely 50 years old as an independent country. It is only natural that we will have different perspectives.

But big or small, old or new, we like all countries everywhere, face the common challenge of adapting to a rapidly evolving international system. For the last two hundred years or so, the international system was largely shaped by the West. And that was true irrespective of which side we stood during the Cold War. Communism too was a western ideology.

That western-shaped international system is now in the throes of profound change. But while we know from where we came, where we are headed is as yet unclear. This is not yet a truly multipolar world even if it is no longer clearly a unipolar system as seemed to have been established in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.

The proximate cause of the changes that are underway was the re-emergence and rapid growth of a China that is now a vital part of the international economic grid. In transforming itself, China transformed the world. We are all now trying to understand and adjust to the implications.

The crucial relationship is that between the US and China. Washington and Beijing are groping towards a new modus vivendi. This will not be easy. The effort is complex and fraught with many challenges: political, military, economic and even psychological.

Both the US and China want and need a stable relationship with each other. President Xi Jinping has proposed 'a new model of great power relations'. The US has used a similar form of words. But it is not yet clear whether they mean the same thing.

China will not meekly acquiesce in the perpetuation of an international system that led to what it calls 'a hundred years of humiliation'. Yet it was that same system that for the last thirty years facilitated China's rise.

When the US and China eventually establish a new equilibrium, the rest of the world will take dressing from it. For now, US-China relations already set the tone for East Asia.

A vast part of Russia lies in East Asia. Since Tsarist times, Russia has played a major role in the region, particularly in Northeast Asia. Russia therefore cannot but be affected by these developments and must find a new modus vivendi with China too. I wish you well in this endeavour.

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