Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew to pen international affairs book with ex-West German chancellor

Mr Schmidt and Mr Lee at the end of Monday’s press conference at Shangri-La Hotel. The two friends share similar views on many issues. — ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Singapore. Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew will co-author a book on international affairs with former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt.The book will be published in English and German in Singpore and Germany respectively, the duo announced at a joint press conference at the Shangri-La Hotel on Monday.

“We [will] try to publish by Christmas. It’s a good time for sales,” said Lee.

The announcement came after the two men had three days of private discussions on a wide range of global issues, from geopolitics and economics to society. Their conversations will form the basis of the book.

Lee said the book will read like a “discussion between friends,” in which they analyze the world from the perspectives of both Singapore and Germany. He said that his views coincided with Schmidt’s on the majority of issues.

“But the Chancellor thinks he’s more pessimistic about the world than I am,” added Lee.

Asked why this was so, Schmidt replied: “There’s a very easy answer to that. Because I am just a bit older than Harry.”

Schmidt is 94 and Mr Lee, 88.

The book project caps a four-decade-long friendship between the two former leaders. They met when Schmidt was chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982.

For the pair, thinking alike dates as far back as 1978. In his memoirs, Lee recounted a trip Schmidt and his wife Loki made to Singapore that year. He wrote: “We had the measure of each other and found much common ground. When we recorded a television interview for a German television station, the interlocutor was surprised that we seemed to think and talk alike on so many issues.”

Lee also described Schmidt in his memoirs as a “clear-headed and tough-minded” leader who had a thorough grasp of important issues.

On Monday, Schmidt said he wanted very much to make this trip to Singapore because Lee was one of just two leaders he longed to meet again in his lifetime.

“I have the feeling that in the end of my life, I wanted to see Harry Lee once again, and I wanted to see Zhu Rongji once more . . . And then I’m satisfied with my life,” he said.

Schmidt left Singapore for China after the press conference. He is scheduled to meet former Chinese premier Zhu today.

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