SINGAPORE - Visionary leader Lee Kuan Yew played an important role in key postwar developments which shaped the geopolitical landscape in Asia.
Born to an ethnic Chinese family, the Cambridge University educated Lee, who died on March 23 at the age of 91, helped expand cooperative relations between Asia and the West. It was this standing which moved leaders from around the world, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to attend the Singaporean state funeral for its founding father on March 29.
Lee laid out some grand visions for Asia's diplomatic future, such as helping to defuse tensions between China and the US as well as leading Southeast Asia's acceptance of Japan as a regional power. He also made astute, behind-the-scenes moves to help realise these visions.
Good for Japan
The former leader's diplomatic legacies were clear in a survey the Japanese foreign ministry carried out last year within member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In the survey, 65 per cent of respondents cited Japan as an important partner, a higher ratio than the figures for China and the US
The survey results show how dramatically Southeast Asia's perceptions of Japan have changed since the 1970's, when perceptions of Japan's business activities were mostly of an "economic invasion" of the region and frequently provoked anti-Japanese demonstrations across the region.
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