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Singapore PM draws laughs in US speech

April 3, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — Singapore is well-known for its efficiency and order, but during a visit to Washington the city-state’s prime minister displayed a less advertised attribute — humor.

In an after-dinner speech Tuesday to U.S. businessmen, Lee Hsien Loong made a couple of jokes that could pass for stand-up comedy.

He drew laughs — and some groans — with his quips, including one about China’s environmental problems.

“Beijing residents joke that to get a free smoke all they have to do is open their windows!” Lee said.

He then alluded to thousands of pig carcasses recently fished from Chinese rivers.

″(In) Shanghai, if you want some pork soup, you just turn on the tap,” he said.

His audience appeared doubtful if that was good taste, until he added, “That’s their joke, not mine!”

Lee, who met earlier in the day with President Barack Obama, had serious messages in his speech too.

He spoke about the challenges facing China as it emerges from its once-in-a-decade leadership transition, and on the need for the two global powers, the U.S. and China, to get along.

Singapore gets on well with both, and Lee said China, which remains cautious about political reform, looks at his prosperous city-state to try to understand how to balance its economic and social goals as it develops.

With a little deprecation, Lee described Singapore as a “tiny bonsai model” for China to learn from.

Lee is the son of Singapore’s founding prime minister, Lee Kwan Yew, who steered the Southeast Asian nation’s development for many years while keeping a firm grip on power.

The same party has ruled for the past 50 years, although the political opposition gained ground in national elections in 2011.

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