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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

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Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

Munshi Ahmed for Asiaweek
S I N G A P O R E:
Teo Chee Hean
George Yeo

Teo Chee Hean
Born 1954
Singapore aims to be an education hub - and Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean, minister of education since January, is the prime mover behind the effort. "The major challenge all countries have to face," says Teo, "is how to strike a balance between this new knowledge economy and, on the part of the people, the desire to retain their basic values, their sense of identity." Teo, 44, adds:"We feel Singapore is a center where people, ideas and capital can come together and spark new opportunities." The emphasis on cross-fertilization echoes Teo's guiding principle: "to keep questioning your own conclusions and assumptions and those of others, and also to be open and prepared to learn, adapt and adopt experiences of others."

A new breed of politicians and activists are ready to break the shackles of the past, here listed by country:

The People Power Century
Combining idealism and pragmatic political instincts, these leaders are repudiating politics-as-usual

Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying

India Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chandrababu Naidu

Indonesia Andi Mallarangeng, Munir, and Emmy Hafild

Japan Noda Seiko, Shii Kazuo and Watanabe Yoshimi

Malaysia Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Lim Guan Eng

Philippines Manuel Roxas II and Michael Defensor

Singapore Teo Chee Hean and George Yeo

South Korea Choo Mi Ae, Kim Min Seok and Nam Kyung Pil

Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian

Thailand Chaturon Chaisang and Abhisit Vejjajiva

Business & Finance
Journeying Beyond the Crisis
Born amidst unparalleled prosperity and tempered by adversity, a new generation of business leaders is poised to take the region to new levels of success in banking, commerce and industry

If this sounds like the credo of a dedicated academic, it is. Along with a Master's in public administration from Harvard, Teo earned a Master's in computer science from the Imperial College of London. His attention to detail is well-known. Dr. Tan Chi Chiu, chief of the Singapore International Foundation, recalls submitting a lengthy technical paper to Teo, who found an error in "one of many annexes, a very small point which could have been easily missed. I was very impressed."

Teo chairs Singapore 21, a consultative effort, he says, to "draw up a vision of the 'heartware' [people] of Singapore in the 21st century." Also deputy defense minister, he is often chosen to handle delicate missions. He was the first Singaporean official to visit Jakarta after the fall of Suharto and the first to visit Malaysia after a series of diplomatic spats.

Munshi Ahmed for Asiaweek

George Yeo
Born 1954
Few Singaporeans would dispute that Brig.-Gen. George Yeo Yong Boon is one of the sharpest minds in government today. Academically gifted - he earned a double-first in engineering at Cambridge and an MBA at Harvard - Yeo has been an advocate of diluting his government's authoritarianism in the interest of making Singapore a more vibrant and competitive society. Arguably, he has helped to achieve much of that - without losing the support of his mentor, Lee Kuan Yew. Dinesh Senan, a member of the ruling party's youth wing, says Yeo is "a bridge between younger citizens and senior leaders."

In 1991, when Yeo was minister for information and arts, he said in a speech: "The problem now is that under the banyan tree very little else can grow. When state institutions are too pervasive, civic institutions cannot thrive. It's necessary to prune the banyan trees so other plants can grow." Since then, Yeo says, "the state has withdrawn a lot and will continue to do so." Named minister for trade and industry in June, he is now concentrating on what he calls the "external wing" - making Singaporeans significant economic players around the region.

Yeo's career has not been without bumps. Insiders say he could be a better administrator and that his cerebral manner can alienate ordinary folk. His latest posting, while not a top cabinet portfolio, has revived his career. Like Senior Minister Lee, Yeo, 45, is a regular on the think-tank circuit, and in many ways his manner is reminiscent of Lee's own thoughtful style. Yeo's guiding principle: "To do good but accept that if you hadn't existed the world would not have stopped spinning."

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