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Lee Kuan Yew: The man from Singapore, a man of his time

Lee's life traced a long arc of modern East Asian history: the last vestiges of colonialism, the advent of affluence, the introduction of democracy, albeit flawed and limited, the spread of globalisation, the decline of Japan and the rise of China and, now, the retreat to nationalism. He was not so much an architect of change - his stage, Singapore, was... too small to be a global player - as an observer of the way of the world, on anything from nation-building to geopolitics to terrorism, and everything in between. Over six decades of public life, Lee preached, berated, pontificated and counselled not only his own people but also those of other countries, whether the advice was solicited or not...

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At home, Lee was above all the man in charge. His ethos was both broad and narrow, often controversial, and always trenchant. Government required a long reach to be effective. Economic development needed to precede democracy and, even then, civil liberties should be restricted and dissent monitored and, when he deemed so, curtailed...

Today, chiefly because of the foundations he laid, Singapore, tiny and surrounded by hostile neighbours when it was born, has not only survived but also flourished - a widely admired banking, tech and educational hub whose GDP per capita is among the highest in the world; a place that constantly innovates and experiments; the Little City That Could...

No-nonsense to the end, he didn't overthink his legacy. "I am not given to making sense out of life, or coming up with some grand narrative of it," he wrote in 2013. "I have done what I had wanted to, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied." So passes the man from Singapore, who became a man of his time.

TIME MAGAZINE