Friday, 12 May 2017

Tommy Koh rebuts view that Singapore has acted against China: 12th China-Singapore Forum

By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 11 May 2017

Singapore does not take sides in the South China Sea issue, nor is it aligned with or against any of the major powers, Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh has reiterated at a public forum in China.

Reaffirming the close and mutually beneficial relationship between Singapore and China, he addressed statements made by a high-level Chinese official at the public session of the 12th China-Singapore forum yesterday.

Senior Chinese diplomat Ruan Zongze, the first of four speakers at the forum, said Singapore has taken actions in recent years that adversely affected bilateral ties. These included trying to get other ASEAN countries to release a joint statement after an international tribunal's ruling against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea last year, and saying publicly that the tribunal's award is legally binding and countries should abide by it.

China and four ASEAN states have overlapping claims in the sea.

Dr Ruan added that Singapore has also allowed the United States to deploy military vessels and aircraft meant for "close-in reconnaissance in China's South China Sea" since last year, though it claimed not to be aligned with the US.

Noting that Singapore is one of China's few "all-weather friends", Professor Koh said Singapore acted very carefully after the tribunal's decision: It did not issue a statement supporting the ruling, or call on China to comply with it.

"What did we do? We did the minimum possible without sacrificing our own national interests: We took note of the award," he said.

Dr Ruan's accusation that Singapore tried to mobilise ASEAN states to issue a joint statement against China on the arbitration award was also untrue, he added.

"We asked each of the nine ASEAN countries what is their position, what can they subscribe to in the joint statement, that is all we did," he said.

"We were an honest facilitator, trying to find out whether there is a consensus among the 10 ASEAN countries, but always conscious that our national interest is to promote peace and cooperation between ASEAN and China."

Prof Koh said Singapore's foreign policy is to be close to all the major powers. But he assured his Chinese audience that "the bottom line is this: Singapore will never allow its relationship with any major power to harm China".

Sino-Singapore ties are in good order, he added, with multiple annual high-level meetings, including the apex Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. Singapore is China's top foreign investor, and China is Singapore's largest trading partner, he noted.

When Singapore becomes ASEAN chairman next year, it will think of projects to bring China and ASEAN even closer, he said.

Singapore can 'partner China in One Belt, One Road initiative'
Republic can offer expertise that determines how well a project succeeds, says professor
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 11 May 2017

As a developed country not short of roads and ports, Singapore may not seem like a natural partner for China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, for which infrastructure building is a key pillar.

But Singapore's role in the initiative, especially in South-east Asia, can be one of providing the less visible, behind-the-scenes expertise that determines how well a project succeeds, said former government chief economist Tan Kong Yam.

"You should not be mistaken that if a railway is built in Indonesia, Singapore has no role to play," he told about 50 academics, diplomats and students at Beijing Foreign Studies University yesterday.

"Singapore may not be building the railway, but the masterplanning, the financing, everything is done in Singapore," he said.

Professor Tan was one of four speakers at the public session of the 12th China-Singapore Forum, which looked at how China and Singapore can cooperate on the OBOR initiative. The two-day event, which ended yesterday, was jointly organised by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute, ahead of Beijing's OBOR summit on Sunday.

Prof Tan said China's heft and economic power have made potential partners for its plan to build a trade route linking Asia, Africa and Europe wary of its intentions, even if they are good.

"The cute panda bear has evolved into a huge, great panda bear; it might be friendly, but if it simply lies down, it's so big that it might inadvertently crush the legs of a deer nearby," he said.

But such concerns can be allayed by partnering a "squirrel in the jungle" like Singapore, he added, a country that is nimble, non-threatening, and can serve as a go-between and an interlocutor.

Agreeing, Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit noted that some 60 per cent of ASEAN projects are already financed mainly by Singapore-based banks, and the Republic has a deep ecosystem of logistics, project development and service firms.

Mr Ho said China can consider setting up a planning office in Singapore so Maritime Silk Road projects can tap the island's expertise.

Another speaker was deputy director Peng Zhiming of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), the third Sino-Singapore government- to-government project after the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City. He said both sides can cooperate in areas such as financing as China opens up its western interior. The CCI, which aims to improve Chongqing's transport and service links, is a priority demonstration project for the OBOR initiative.

"Chongqing is different from the Suzhou and Tianjin projects as it's not a business park or special zone," said Mr Peng. "Rather, it centres on Chongqing as a project operations centre, and its soul and spirit are in institutional innovation."

Singapore's friendship with China
Both sides can grow in mutual understanding and there is much to learn from each other
By Tommy Koh, Published The Straits Times, 2 May 2017

Next week, on May 9 and 10, I will be in Beijing, to co-chair the 12th China-Singapore Forum.

My co-chair is Ambassador Wu Hailong, the president of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs.

The forum is being conducted on what is called Track 1.5, meaning that the participants consist of a mixture of government officials and colleagues from the business community, academia and the mass media.

The forum has three objectives.

First, to create a platform for the frank but cordial exchange of views between Singaporeans and Chinese.

Second, to promote better understanding between our two countries.

Third, to grow the community of public intellectuals in the two countries who have a deep interest in the other country and in good relations between them.

In preparation for the 12th forum, I have been thinking about Singapore's friendship with China. I would like to share my thoughts with my fellow Singaporeans as well as with friends in China.


Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made his inaugural visit to China in 1976. The then Chinese ambassador to the United Nations Huang Hua and I had the honour of organising that visit.

Speaking on May 11, 1976, in Beijing, Mr Lee said that Singapore would not be anti-China. He also said that the stronger China became, the better and more equal the balance between the United States, the Soviet Union and China. He concluded that such a balance would be safer for the world and for Singapore. We have never deviated from this vision.

Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made a historic visit to Singapore in 1978, two years after Mr Lee's visit to China. The visit to Singapore must have reinforced Mr Deng's determination to undertake reform and to open up the Chinese economy to the world.

Mr Deng and Mr Lee developed a strong relationship of mutual respect and mutual trust. Mr Lee decided that Singapore would support China's paradigm shift from a centrally planned economy to a market economy with Chinese characteristics. Mr Deng and his successors had frequently asked Mr Lee for his advice. Mr Lee would visit China almost every year and was sincere in his advice.


When Mr Deng started China on the journey of reform and opening up to the world, he needed role models. For inspiration, he looked to South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and, especially, Singapore.

In February 1992, Mr Deng's reform agenda was being opposed by conservative elements in the party's leadership. In order to counter them, he took his family on a tour of South China. In Shenzhen, he said that Guangdong province should catch up with the four tiger economies in 20 years. He went on to say: "There is good social order in Singapore. They govern the place with discipline. We should draw from their experience and do even better than them."

Mr Deng's endorsement of Singapore led to a flood of requests from China. In 1992 alone, Singapore hosted the visit of more than 500 delegations from China.

A second contribution which Singapore has made to China is the transfer of knowledge, expertise and experience. Singapore's pioneer finance minister, Dr Goh Keng Swee, served as China's economic adviser. Dr Goh did for China what the Dutch expert, Dr Albert Winsemius, had done for Singapore.

Singapore has been extremely generous in sharing its experience with Chinese leaders and cadres. Both the Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore have customised special Chinese language courses for Chinese officials. The Civil Service College Singapore has also collaborated with China's Central Party School in education and training. In his speech at Nankai University, in 2015, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said that in total, Singapore has provided training to 50,000 Chinese officials and cadres.

This contribution is unique and priceless. Speaking at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on April 17, 2010, China's Vice-President Li Yuanchao said: "Out of all the destinations where we send our leading officials to receive training, Singapore is our top choice because Singapore is the most sincere in helping China develop, due to our longstanding warm relationship."


A third contribution by Singapore is to invest in the Chinese economy. Since 2013, Singapore has become the largest investor in China. Singapore's investment in China is also unique. Let me explain.

Singapore investments fall into three categories.

The first category consists of investments made by Singapore's private sector for purely commercial reasons.

The second category consists of investments made by the private sector in projects which have the backing of the two governments. Two examples are the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City and the Singapore-Chengdu High-Tech Park.

The third category consists of very large government-to-government projects, such as the Suzhou Industrial Park, the Tianjin Eco-City and the Chongqing Connectivity Project. These iconic projects are not only intended to advance the shared economic interests of the two countries but also to transfer Singapore's software to China. They are also intended to nurture a growing circle of Chinese and Singaporeans who understand each other and are capable of working harmoniously together.


A fourth contribution which Singapore has made to China is to be its steadfast friend and to be an interlocutor between China and the US.

Following the tragic Tiananmen incident in 1989, the West condemned China and imposed economic sanctions against it. Singapore did not join the West but continued to invest in China and help China. When negotiations between China and the US on China's accession to the World Trade Organisation reached an impasse, Mr Lee spoke to two members of President Bill Clinton's Cabinet and helped to break the impasse.

Three generations of Singapore's leaders have tried to promote better mutual understanding between China and the US. Singapore was one of the first countries to support the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Singapore is also supporting the One Belt, One Road initiative.

China has made so much progress in the last 30 years that in some areas, Singapore could learn from China.

The use of solar energy is one such area. There are other areas, such as in science and technology, where Singapore can learn from China. The new spirit is mutual learning.

However, there are new areas in which Singapore is still able to make a contribution to China, such as human resource development, social management and financial governance.

In conclusion, I would say that Singapore has been a steadfast, reliable and sincere friend of China since the late 1970s. Looking to the future, China can depend on our goodwill and friendship.

The writer is an ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-chairman of the China-Singapore Forum.

Singapore, China share leadership ideas at 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership

DPM Teo and China minister also note strong ties, importance of leadership development
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 17 May 2017

Singapore and China are very different in size but they face common challenges, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

These include an ageing population, slowing workforce growth, a better-educated younger generation with higher expectations for career and family, and the impact of technology on society and work.

In the search for solutions, government officials from both countries came together to share ideas and experiences at a two-day forum, which ends today. It is being held at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Central to the discussion was how to develop leaders and policies for their countries to find innovative ways forward - the theme of the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership.

The Singapore side is led by Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister-in-charge of the Civil Service, and China by Mr Zhao Leji, Communist Party of China (CPC) Politburo member and Central Committee Organisation Department Minister.

In their keynote speeches, both spoke of the friendship between their countries and the importance of leadership development.

Mr Teo said: "The ability to have deep, wide-ranging and substantive discussions on such issues of national interest reflects the high degree of mutual trust between Singapore and China, as well as the depth, breadth and strength of our bilateral ties."

Similarly, Mr Zhao spoke of the longstanding friendship between both nations, which also share a consensus on the development of human resources.

"We are in a volatile time and the world is undergoing rapid changes, (and) neighbours wish each other well, just as loved ones do to each other," he told about 100 people.

As co-chairs of the forum, both leaders outlined how their people are being developed for the future.

Mr Teo said Singapore's innovative ways include broadening the concept of meritocracy to help people learn throughout their lives. This is to prepare them for new jobs and industries as technological advances, such as robots and artificial intelligence, disrupt routine jobs.

Singapore is also systematically deepening and broadening the experiences of a younger generation of political leaders, he added.

"We will need leaders at all levels, in the political arena and public administration, in the private and people sectors. Leaders who have the moral courage and integrity to do what is right, and not just what is populist," he said.

Mr Zhao said the development of human resources is the foundation of innovation and, in turn, growth.

Their governments also innovate.

Mr Teo said Singapore takes the long view in developing policies, which it adapts and improves along the way. To produce clean water, for instance, it looks for new methods to gradually reduce its dependence on water from Malaysia.

In implementing policies, the Government has made two changes: Services are more citizen-centric, like the automated tax return filing that makes it easy for people to pay taxes, and encouraging more ground-up initiatives.

In short, it has shifted from a "Government to people'' to a "Government with people'' approach.

Mr Teo said: "It recognises the Government may not have the answers to all issues, empowers citizens and promotes collective responsibility and ownership.''

China's focus is on the central ideology of socialism adapted to China's conditions, said Mr Zhao.

"Not all people should wear shoes of the same size... Similarly, not all governments should adopt the same model of governance. They should govern in ways that benefit their people," he added.

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung noted the similarities between Singapore and China, including being oriental countries.

"But besides Chinese culture and tradition, the Malay and Indian cultures, traditions and wisdom are also deeply ingrained in Singaporeans' collective consciousness."

He also said their difference in size means Singapore can be more flexible in trying out various solutions, and learn and improve if these do not work.

CPC Central Committee Organisation Department Vice-Minister Gao Xuanmin said both countries' ruling parties led the way in promoting innovation and development.

Earlier in the day, Mr Zhao visited the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and was hosted to lunch by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is the school's chairman.

PM Lee, Chinese minister affirm strong ties

By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 17 May 2017

China's Central Organisation Department Minister Zhao Leji called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday.

During the meeting, both leaders affirmed the strong and substantial relationship between their nations.

They noted that relations date back to the 1970s, when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew first visited China in 1976, and then Chinese Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping visiting Singapore in 1978.

"Mr Lee and Mr Deng provided a strong foundation for the friendship and cooperation that the two countries now enjoy," said a statement from the Prime Minister's press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin.

PM Lee and Mr Zhao, who is a member of the Communist Party of China Politburo, also agreed that cooperation has evolved greatly in the past 40 years, reflecting the development and changing priorities of both countries.

Human resource development has become an important area of cooperation, said Ms Chang.

Mr Zhao is in Singapore for the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership, and both leaders noted its importance as a key platform to share experiences in areas of governance and the training of officials.

Mr Zhao also expressed appreciation for Singapore's participation in the Belt and Road Forum, on China's initiative to revive ancient land and sea trade routes, which took place in Beijing from Sunday to Monday.

PM Lee and Mr Zhao also spoke about regional issues and affirmed the close ties between China and Asean.

They added that they looked forward to meaningful progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade pact between Asean and the grouping's key trading partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

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