Sunday, 12 April 2015

Ways to forge consensus in S'pore must evolve: DPM Teo

By Kor Kian Beng, China Bureau Chief, In Jinggangshan (Jiangxi), The Straits Times, 11 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE needs new ways of building national consensus and unity that foster public participation and a sense of shared ownership, as the country marks its 50th year and enters a new phase of development, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

This will help Singapore address new challenges such as income inequality and an ageing society, and prevent opportunists from exploiting deep-seated issues such as race, language and religion, he said at a China-Singapore leadership development forum yesterday in central Jiangxi province's Jinggangshan city.

"We continue to abide by principles that have worked well for us, including meritocracy, self-reliance and a strong sense of community. But we have steadily evolved our policies and programmes to meet our new challenges, and cater to the needs of our changing population profile."

Mr Teo, who is Minister-in- charge of the civil service, was speaking to some 300 Chinese officials at the opening of the 5th China-Singapore Forum on Leadership, of which the theme is "Forging Consensus with Our People, Building National Unity".

In his speech, Mr Teo described key changes that the Singapore Government has made in formulating policies and communicating them to citizens over time.

Recent schemes such as SkillsFuture, which encourages lifelong learning, and MediShield Life, which will provide health insurance for all Singaporeans for life, take the Government's push to create a fair, just and united society to the next level, Mr Teo said.

The state is also moving from a "government-to-people" engagement style, which relies on public campaigns to build support for policies, to a more consultative "people-to-government" approach, where citizens' views are proactively sought.

This shift "helps strengthen trust between the Government and our citizens", he said.

Large-scale "people-to-people" engagement exercises, including Our Singapore Conversation in 2012 to brainstorm a shared vision for the nation, have also enabled different groups to underone another's views and build a consensus, Mr Teo said.

New channels such as the Internet and social media can also build community spirit, though traditional ways are not discarded, he said, citing how volunteers explained the Pioneer Generation Package in person to the elderly.

At the event, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) organisation department chief Zhao Leji stressed the importance of forging consensus and unity with the people.

"Amid changes in today's society, environment, media and culture, the people's thinking is also becoming more independent, selective and fickle. So the methods in connecting with the people must change, but the emphasis on the people can never change for the party," said Mr Zhao, who oversees personnel matters and is part of the CCP's decision-making body, the Politburo.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and the CCP's Central Party School executive vice-president He Yiting were among others who spoke at the event.

Mr Teo met Jiangxi provincial party boss Qiang Wei yesterday before leaving Jinggangshan for Shanghai. He will attend Singapore Day and meet Shanghai party boss Han Zheng today.

'S'pore's principles are what attracts China'
By Kor Kian Beng, The Sunday Times, 12 Apr 2015

Singapore will remain a useful and relevant reference point for China as long as it continues to be a successful and harmonious society that progresses and provides a good quality of life for Singaporeans, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

The Singapore model, embodying principles such as meritocracy, clean governance and self-reliance, is what the Chinese society desires, he added.

"These are the principles which have attracted China to Singapore: that we've been able to create a model in which we have these aspects as well as social harmony and cohesion," said Mr Teo, yesterday, commenting on the future of Singapore's ties with China in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era.

Singapore's founding Prime Minister, who pioneered Sino-Singapore ties with late Chinese strongman Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s, died on March 23 at age 91.

A key factor for Singapore's continued success is leadership renewal to ensure new leaders are developed and prepared to take Singapore forward, which is always on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's mind, said Mr Teo, commenting on the Cabinet reshuffle last week.

"The most important thing for any leader is how to make sure we have good strong leadership not just for now but for the future.

"It should be on all Singaporeans' minds too as we're a small country with no resources and only our people to depend on," he added.

"There is no reason why we should be successful. Quite a lot of it boils down to our unity and being able to work cohesively to achieve the success that we have."

Mr Teo was speaking to the Singapore media yesterday as his trip to China, which began last Tuesday, drew to a close.

During his visit, he met top Chinese officials, including Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli and Shanghai party boss Han Zheng, and hosted the fifth China-Singapore Forum on Leadership in central Jinggangshan city.

He also attended the Singapore Day event with some 5,000 Singaporeans in Shanghai.

An example of how the Chinese are keen to learn from Singapore, said Mr Teo, is their reaction to Education Minister Heng Swee Keat's presentation on the 2012 Our Singapore Conversation exercise during a closed-door session at the Jinggangshan forum last Friday.

Mr Heng spoke about how the dialogue fostered communication between the government and the people and also among the people themselves.

He also gave details on how it involved 50,000 people from a broad spectrum, delved deep into issues, and took a long-term perspective by seeking Singaporeans' thoughts on the future.

"What interested the Chinese was how we found a new way of engaging Singaporeans," said Mr Teo. "It wasn't just government-to-people or people-to-government conversation but also a people-to-people conversation in which large numbers of Singaporeans came together to express their views and vision of what they wanted to see in Singapore in the future."

As both countries mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, bilateral cooperation could advance through a proposed government-led project in China's western region and upgrading of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, he added.

Singapore-China ties in phase of 'rapid ascendancy'
Both sides set to reap new gains: Senior Chinese leader
By Kor Kian Beng, China Bureau Chief In Beijing, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE-CHINA relations are in a phase of "rapid ascendancy" with bilateral cooperation set to reap a new round of positive outcomes, said China's seventh-ranked leader Zhang Gaoli at a meeting with visiting Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Mr Zhang listed collaboration in fields such as finance, human talent, social governance, technology, education and environmental protection, as he noted that this year marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"China is keen to work with Singapore at a new historical milestone to develop the friendship, strengthen political trust, deepen practical wide-ranging cooperation and lift bilateral ties to new heights," said the Chinese Executive Vice-Premier, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency yesterday.

A statement from the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Mr Teo and Mr Zhang also affirmed the "substantive and multi-faceted cooperation" and agreed that "both sides should find innovative and path-breaking ways to bring our relations to greater heights".

Mr Teo and Mr Zhang co-chair the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level mechanism that meets yearly to deepen political ties and economic cooperation between the two sides. Both sides are exploring the possibility of a third government-led project, in the western China region, as proposed by Mr Zhang in 2013.

Mr Teo is on a visit to China which began on Tuesday and will end on Sunday.

He will host the China-Singapore Forum on Leadership tomorrow with the Communist Party's organisation department chief Zhao Leji.

Mr Teo is the minister in charge of the Singapore Civil Service while Mr Zhao oversees the personnel matters of party cadres.

The forum, which began in 2009, and which China and Singapore take turns to host, allows political leaders and senior officials of both countries to meet and discuss common challenges related to leadership development. It is being held for the first time in central Jiangxi province's Jinggangshan, which is known as the birthplace of the Chinese Red Army and cradle of the communist revolution.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Teo also met State Councillor and Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun and discussed ways to tackle transnational threats such as terrorism and cybercrime.

Both Mr Zhang and Mr Guo also expressed their condolences over the death of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the age of 91 on March 23.

In his meeting with Mr Guo, Mr Teo said that Mr Lee believed strongly that a strong China would be good for the region.

"He worked hard to integrate China into the region and ensure that all countries could benefit from its growth," he added.

Mr Teo's visit will also include Shanghai where he will attend the Singapore Day on Saturday to mark Singapore's 50th year of independence and pay a tribute to Mr Lee along with some 5,000 Singaporeans.

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