Friday, 6 November 2015

Xi Jinping: Build on past achievements for brighter China-Singapore ties

By Xi Jinping, Published The Straits Times, 6 Nov 2015

On the occasion of my forthcoming state visit to Singapore at the invitation of President Tony Tan Keng Yam, I send my warm greetings and express my commitment to further the growth of China-Singapore relations to the Singaporean people.

Known as the garden state, Singapore is familiar to me, a country I have visited a number of times. During each of my visits, I have been deeply impressed by its dynamic development, its unique tropical urban landscape, and its friendly people who live in contentment.

The occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Singapore and 25th birthday of China-Singapore diplomatic relations adds to the significance of my visit.

In the past five decades since the founding of Singapore, the Government and people of Singapore have, with a pioneering and enterprising spirit, pursued a path of development suited to the country's national conditions.

Singapore enjoys prosperity, social stability and harmony among ethnic groups, and plays a unique and important role in regional and international affairs. Singapore's development has not only brought prosperity to its people, but it has also inspired other Asian countries in their pursuit of development. I am sure that under the leadership of the Singaporean Government, Singapore will make even greater achievements in its development endeavours.

In the quarter of a century since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China and Singapore have helped, supported and learnt from each other, and this has contributed much to our respective development. Indeed, these past 25 years have witnessed leapfrog development in our relations. China is now Singapore's biggest trading partner. Our bilateral trade last year hit US$79.74 billion (S$112.4 billion), a 28-fold increase over two decades ago.

Singapore was one of the first countries to get involved in China's opening-up programme and is now China's biggest source of investment, and an important offshore RMB (renminbi) trading centre.

Building on the success of Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city, a third bilateral project of cooperation will be launched. Our cooperation in finance, science, technology, environmental protection, education, culture, social governance, law enforcement and security has been deepened, and produced many deliverables.

There are good reasons why China-Singapore relations have come such a long way.

The leaders of our two countries have approached our relationship as one of strategic and long-term importance, and charted the course for its growth. This has ensured the growth of China-Singapore ties in a fast-changing international environment.

We have formed synergy between China's development strategy and Singapore's unique strengths and development needs, fully leveraged the growing China-ASEAN relations and pursued practical and inclusive cooperation. We have successfully undertaken flagship projects of cooperation and pursued fruitful cooperation in the economic, trade, investment, finance, science, technology and cultural sectors.

We have expanded our cooperation into new areas, such as social governance, food safety, services and connectivity, areas which represent the trend of the new era and are in keeping with our respective development strategies. This has provided an inexhaustible source of energy for growing China-Singapore relations.

As an ancient Chinese teaching goes, one should constantly explore new ways forward to stay ahead. Today, as China-Singapore relations have reached a new historical starting point, we should build on past achievements to create an even brighter future for our two countries.

The following are the steps I believe we should take:
- We should continue to provide leadership guidance. Strategic planning and top guidance, a valuable asset of China-Singapore relations, should be fully leveraged. We should maintain close high-level exchanges, strengthen political mutual trust, enhance strategic dialogue, approach our relations with mutual understanding and respect, and solidify the political foundation of China-Singapore ties.
- We should deepen and expand our practical cooperation. China is endeavouring to sustain growth under new conditions by adopting the 13th five-year plan of development, deepening reform, opening up wider, implementing an innovation-driven development strategy, and adjusting and improving the economic structure. Singapore is now working on its Research, Innovation and Enterprise five-year plan to upgrade economic development. Our two countries should synergise our respective development strategies, expand converging interests, take solid steps to pursue cooperation projects, create new growth areas for cooperation and upgrade our practical cooperation.
- We should pursue close cooperation on regional and international affairs. China, guided by the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, is committed to maintaining and promoting friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation with its neighbours. We are pursuing the initiative of building a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road; and we are dedicated to building a close community of shared future for both China and ASEAN and the whole of Asia.
Singapore is an important member of ASEAN, the current Country Coordinator for China-ASEAN relations and an influential actor on the regional and international stage.

Our two countries should jointly pursue various cooperation initiatives, boost development cooperation, and jointly promote integration in our region, peace and development in Asia and prosperity of the people of the world.

I look forward to exchanging views with Singaporean leaders on these steps and lifting China-Singapore relations to a higher level.

Bai Juyi, a famous Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, described true friendship as being as valuable as gold. China is ready to partner with Singapore to carry forward the China-Singapore friendship, created and nurtured by the older generations of leaders of our two countries.

May the China-Singapore friendship continue to grow and thrive, just like the vibrant and luxuriant rain trees that one sees everywhere in Singapore.

The writer is President of the People's Republic of China, and is in Singapore on a two-day visit starting today.

Looking forward to President Xi Jinping’s visit. This pic was from our meeting in Beijing last November, at the APEC...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday, November 5, 2015

25 years of Singapore-China diplomatic relations

Conditions for partnership even better now
To mark the 25th anniversary of ties between Singapore and China, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sat for an interview with Lianhe Zaobao. He spoke in Mandarin about the "Singapore brand" in China, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the prospects for the bilateral relationship.
The Straits Times, 6 Nov 2015

On Singapore's third government-to-government project with China

We are embarking on this project at a time when China is undergoing institutional reform. What Singapore could do, and which also lay at the heart of our bilateral cooperation, was to help China pursue the developmental path that it has decided for itself.

When we started the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in 1994, the project addressed a particular set of challenges specific to a particular era. China no longer needs another SIP. What China faces now is the issue of institutional reforms. China has already built up its cities and basic infrastructure. What they need to do is to reform their institutions and link up the transportation networks across the country.

Compared to other countries, the cost of domestic logistics within China is rather high. The logistics network is not very accessible and there are many barriers. If China intends to reform and invest in this area, we are willing to work with China and undertake a project together, with the aim of helping China pursue the developmental path that it has decided for itself.

Singapore takes government-to- government collaborations seriously. They should be of value to both parties and not be a burden. We do not take a purely commercial view on such projects but neither can these projects lose money indefinitely.

If your only goal in this collaboration is to profit in monetary terms, you would be missing the point. This project should not only be commercially viable, but also support the development of China. Through policy innovation and pilot-testing of new policies, the project can catalyse the overall development of the western region. So we should not focus on the short-term commercial benefits. Rather, we should take a long-term view and take advantage of the opportunities and innovative measures to break new ground.

Singapore enterprises can draw on their experience doing business with multinational corporations, and use this as the basis for working with Chinese enterprises in this project. This project will strengthen the "Singapore brand" in China.

Of course, we cannot expect Singapore enterprises to make losses indefinitely, so we must achieve a good balance between commercial interests and strategic interests.

【早报专访】李显龙总理:新中合作前景大有可为 在新中庆祝建交25周年之际,我国总理李显龙接受本报专访,回顾与展望新中双边关系的发展,谈起他对中国的多重印象,包括参观中国历史古迹给他的震撼。明早请购买《联合早报》阅读“新中建交25周年”特辑《连系•延续》,看新加坡与中国25年来建交历程。
Posted by Lianhe Zaobao on Thursday, November 5, 2015

On the Tianjin Eco-city, Singapore's 2008 bilateral project with China

The cost of building an environmentally friendly city is high, and especially so for the Tianjin Eco-city because it was built on a site with harsh conditions, such as saltpans and polluted water-bodies. There is also competition for human resources because the Eco-city is quite close to more developed cities such as Tianjin city and Beijing.

So we need the Chinese authorities' continued investment and attention to create favourable conditions for the project to succeed, such as by improving its transport connectivity. The development of Binhai New Area must also be taken into account, due to its large area - several thousand square kilometres. The Eco-city is only a small part of it, so it is a challenge to stand out, maintain demonstration value and ensure commercial viability. But, overall, the Tianjin Eco-city has done well, and its development beyond the Start-Up Area is highly anticipated. There are growth opportunities arising from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integrated development.

On the 'Singapore brand' in China

Some have described the impact of SIP as being similar to Daqing and Dazhai, the model industrial and agricultural projects initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong. I would be cautious about overstating SIP's impact. That said, many officials hailing from different parts of China have visited SIP (and) many want us to set up similar industrial parks in their provinces and cities.

While many provinces would like Singapore to set up industrial parks, we must be judicious with the "Singapore brand" and not dilute it, otherwise, it will soon lose its value.

The reality is that China already has the resources, capability and experience to initiate its own development programmes. But local governments see the value of the "Singapore brand" in attracting foreign investments, and in their relationship with the central government.

For the project to be successful, Singapore must leverage on our strengths. We have to do our homework and research carefully, discuss with stakeholders, and select projects that play to our strengths.

Most importantly, Singapore must be successful. If we were not successful, we would lose relevance and value.

As China deals with its domestic challenges, it may find Singapore's experience and ideas useful as a reference.

Our officials have observed how China's interest in Singapore has changed over the years. In the beginning, the officials wanted to know how we attracted businesses and investments, and built modern industrial parks. In recent years, the interest has been in social management. While it is impossible to transplant Singapore's model into China, the Chinese officials are studying our system closely.

On territorial disputes in the South China Sea

Singapore is not a claimant state. We do not take sides. However, we are part of Asean. As a regional organisation, Asean has its views on the South China Sea issue and has an interest in regional peace and stability. As a small country highly dependent on trade, we regard the right of freedom of navigation and overflight as well as the upholding of international law seriously.

The territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea are not just an issue between a few countries, as they affect all Asean countries. Asean, as the regional organisation, cannot turn a blind eye. Hence, Singapore supports Asean's goal of concluding a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with China as soon as possible

Singapore has just taken over the role of country coordinator for Asean and China Dialogue Relations. Asean and China already have a comprehensive and substantive agenda for cooperation, and we hope to continue making progress and build closer relations.

On the more difficult issues, such as the South China Sea dispute, Singapore will be a fair and objective coordinator, in order to help China and Asean reach a consensus, and continue supporting peaceful development in the region.

On prospects for bilateral relations

In the 25 years since we established formal diplomatic ties, the relationship between Singapore and China has greatly strengthened. We have far surpassed the economic cooperation and trade volume targets that we set out 25 years ago.

Currently, the conditions for a continued partnership are even better than before. China has undergone drastic change and Singapore too is very different from 25 years ago. Whether in culture, tourism, business, economy or in tertiary education, there are many opportunities for us to continue enhancing our cooperation.

New framework for Singapore-China ties expected
It is aimed at deepening ties and cooperation, and will likely be unveiled at state banquet for Chinese President
By Kor Kian Beng, China Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, 6 Nov 2015

Singapore and China are set to adopt a new strategic framework aimed at deepening ties and cooperation as they mark 25 years of diplomatic relations.

The Straits Times understands that President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrives today for a state visit, will unveil the framework at a state banquet this evening featuring local favourites such as chilli crab and bak kut teh.

More details of the new framework - likely called "a partnership of all-round cooperation keeping with the times" - are expected to be announced soon. It is believed to be the first of its kind among the 50-plus partnerships of various titles China has with other states.

Other potential outcomes from Mr Xi's two-day visit include an upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and the launch of a third government-led project in China's western region with modern connectivity and modern services as its theme.

Close ties at all levels and an endless quest for new areas of cooperation form the foundation of the bilateral relationship, say Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Xi in separate remarks published today. They also identified what is needed to deepen ties and cooperation.

In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao, Mr Lee said regular exchanges among top leaders offer opportunities for them to engage and better understand one another. "At the officials' level, there is also close contact, and among the people too, which all adds to building a good foundation for our bilateral relations," said Mr Lee.

In a penned essay, Mr Xi said the past 25 years have seen "leapfrog development" in bilateral ties. China is now Singapore's biggest trading partner, and bilateral trade last year hit US$79.74 billion (S$112 billion), a 28-fold jump from over two decades ago. He said one reason is that leaders "approached our relationship as one of strategic and long-term importance, and charted the course for its growth".

He proposed close cooperation on regional and international affairs as one of three ways to improve ties. The other two are to "continue to provide leadership guidance" and "deepen and expand practical cooperation".

"Singapore is an important member of ASEAN, the current country coordinator for China-ASEAN relations, and an influential actor on the regional and international stage," said Mr Xi, calling for more joint initiatives to boost regional development and integration.

In his interview, Mr Lee noted the two factors that keep Singapore relevant and of value in the bilateral relationship: its continued success and the "Singapore brand".

He said Singapore turned down requests from across China to replicate the flagship Suzhou Industrial Park because it "must be judicious with the 'Singapore brand' and not dilute it, otherwise it will soon lose its value".

Noting that China has changed completely and Singapore is also different, he said "the conditions for a continued partnership are even better than before".

"Whether in culture, tourism, business, economy, or in tertiary education, there are many opportunities for us to continue enhancing our cooperation."

Singapore, China to ink several pacts
By Kor Kian Beng, The Straits Times, 6 Nov 2015

Singapore and China will sign several pacts during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit, including an exchange of letters for the official launch of negotiations to upgrade a free trade agreement.

Both sides will also sign agreements related to the third government-to-government project in western China, as well as cooperation in areas such as education, urban management, and collaboration between the two Customs.

Mr Xi will meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tomorrow and both leaders will witness the signing ceremony, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said.

Today, President Tony Tan Keng Yam will host an official welcome ceremony at the Istana and receive a courtesy call from Mr Xi.

Mrs Mary Tan will separately host Mr Xi's wife, Madam Peng Liyuan, to tea.

A state banquet will be held in honour of Mr Xi, Madam Peng and their delegation, which includes policy research head Wang Huning, general office head Li Zhanshu and State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

Mr Xi's two-day visit is part of an exchange of presidential visits by both sides to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations this year.

Mr Xi and his wife will visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens where an orchid hybrid "Papilionanda" will be named in their honour. PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching will host them to a private lunch.

During his visit - his first to Singapore since he took office in 2013 - Mr Xi will deliver the 36th Singapore Lecture at the National University of Singapore, which will be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.

Along with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Mr Xi will also officially open the China Cultural Centre located in Queen Street. The two leaders attended its ground- breaking ceremony in 2010.

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