If any national leader can claim to have worked an economic miracle, it's Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. During his time as prime minister, from 1959 to 1990, the gross domestic product of this tiny country grew more than tenfold — from $8 billion (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) to $98 billion.

Today the number is pushing $400 billion. When Lee took office, Singapore was poor; in 2015, it's one of the richest countries in the world.

Lee was indisputably the architect of this astonishing transformation. He was also, it so happens, learned and brilliant, and an articulate spokesman for what he saw as a distinctively non-Western path of economic development. Deng Xiaoping admired him and sought his advice. It isn't outlandish to say that Lee deserves some credit for China's equally startling economic expansion starting in the 1970s — a transformation that will reshape the world.