Friday, 3 July 2015

State Visit by President Tony Tan to People's Republic of China

President gets view of China's history
First full day of state visit to China taken up with matters cultural, historical
By Teo Cheng Wee, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2015

History and cultural exchanges took centrestage on the first full day of President Tony Tan Keng Yam's state visit to China, with interactions past and present highlighting 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Dr Tan and his wife Mary yesterday presented the Chinese with a gift from home - 300 books on Singapore for the National Library of China - as part of an SG50 initiative by the National Library Board. The programme aims to give 10,000 books on Singapore to 40 libraries around the world.

National Library of China president Han Yongjing thanked the couple as they handed him a selection of the books, which included Fifty On 50, a collection of Singapore poetry in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

Later in the day, during an 80-minute tour of the National Museum of China, a smiling Dr Tan stopped at one of the exhibits - a large crystal bowl with floral patterns. It was a gift from former Singapore President Wee Kim Wee to his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin, he noted the label saying.

The exchanges over the years underscore the relationship that has blossomed between both countries, even though Singapore was the last Asean nation to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1990.

China's ties with other countries are also showcased at the museum.

Dr Tan also stopped to look at black-and-white pictures of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong with world leaders, including then US president Richard Nixon, who worked towards formalising ties between their two countries.

The pictures are part of the museum's permanent exhibition - The Road to Rejuvenation - a sweeping narrative of modern Chinese history. President Xi Jinping had first discussed his "China Dream" vision of a great, resurgent Chinese nation in 2012 after viewing the exhibition.

Dr Tan will meet Mr Xi and other top Chinese leaders later during his visit. They are expected to review bilateral ties and discuss regional developments, including Sino-Asean and Sino-US ties.

During Dr Tan's tour of the National Library, he viewed ancient calligraphy, scripture and printing, including a handwritten record of Singapore by a Chinese scholar dating back to 1887.

He tried his hand at the art of Chinese woodblock printing by brushing red paint against a large block and pressing it on paper.

"These paintings signify good fortune, so I wished him well and hope it brings him luck," said artist Zhang Yunxiang, 48, who helped Dr Tan with the process.

Mr Zhang is from Weifang in eastern Shandong province, which is known for its woodblock paintings.

Today, Dr Tan will visit Tianjin - 40 minutes away from the capital by high-speed rail - where he will receive an honorary doctorate from Nankai University. He will also meet Tianjin's acting party secretary Huang Xingguo and visit the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City.

Singapore-China ties 'going strong'
President Tony Tan conferred honorary doctorate for contribution to bilateral ties
By Teo Cheng Wee, China Correspondent In Tianjin, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Singapore-China ties will remain strong even after the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam, after he became only the second Singapore leader after Mr Lee to be conferred an honorary doctorate in China.

"Mr Lee's passing marks the end of an era but it does not mean the end of strong China-Singapore relations," Dr Tan said yesterday in response to a question from a student at Nankai University. The institution conferred the doctorate on Dr Tan for his contribution to bilateral ties.

"We have established other platforms. Our ministers meet very frequently, many delegations of officials from China visit Singapore, and from Singapore to China, to learn from each other."

Mr Lee, who received an honorary doctorate from Fudan University in 2005, had laid the foundation for close ties between the two countries from the 1970s.

But Mr Lee, who died in March, knew the ties he fostered "had to carry on beyond him". "I believe the potential and progress of China-Singapore relations would continue to grow from strength to strength. If Mr Lee were to look back on what he has achieved, I think he'll be very satisfied," said Dr Tan. "It's our task, and I hope our Chinese colleagues', to carry on his work."

Dressed in ceremonial robes, Dr Tan was warmly welcomed by more than 200 guests and students at Nankai, which is the alma mater of China's founding premier, Zhou Enlai.

University President Gong Ke praised Dr Tan's contributions to fostering ties in a speech, noting that "cooperation between Singapore and China brings benefits not only to our two countries, but also to regional and global developments".

In his address, Dr Tan also cited examples of strong China-Singapore relations, pointing out that CapitaLand is the largest foreign real estate developer in China, while 6,200 Chinese firms have set up branches in Singapore.

"Despite the disparity in geographical sizes between our two countries, mutual learning and sharing of experiences have been cornerstones of our bilateral cooperation," he said.

One example is the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project (SSTEC), which Dr Tan also visited yesterday. SSTEC, which was started in 2008, is the second government-led project between the two countries in China, after Suzhou Industrial Park.

These projects, he noted, foster understanding and friendships and evolve according to the changing needs of the two countries.

At SSTEC, he officially opened the Low Carbon Living Lab, an environment-friendly building that operates as a business park space. He also interacted with Singaporeans living in Tianjin and chatted with SSTEC's new CEO, Mr Liew Choon Boon, who assumed his position yesterday.

Separately, Dr Tan also met with Tianjin's acting party secretary, Mr Huang Xingguo.

Tianjin is the only stop outside of Beijing on Dr Tan's six-day state visit. On Tuesday, he and his wife Mary Tan handed 300 Singaporean books as a gift to the National Library of China.

In his speech at Nankai yesterday, Dr Tan also underlined the importance of China's role in contributing to the region's stability, pointing out there remains "tremendous scope for further cooperation".

He said China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative has the potential to forge cooperation across regions including South-east Asia.

"As Singapore takes on our upcoming role as country coordinator for Asean-China Dialogue Relations this August, we look forward to strengthening the relationship between Asean and China," he said.

Singaporeans praised for boosting China ties
Tony Tan tells those living there they play a key role and to keep on forming relationships
By Teo Cheng Wee, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2015

President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday praised Singaporeans for their role in building bridges between their country and China.

"In an increasingly globalised world, many Singaporeans have ventured overseas to live, work and study... You play an important role in strengthening ties between Singapore and China with the bonds of friendship that you form here," he said at a reception for some 300 Singaporeans in Beijing.

Noting that there are about 20,000 Singaporeans working and living in China, many of them successful leaders in various sectors, Dr Tan urged them to continue forming relationships.

His words found resonance with Singaporean Cheng Yong Meng, 56, who has worked for 23 years in China. "Singaporeans are seen by the Chinese as honest and hard-working. We get things done," said Mr Cheng, deputy general manager of developer China World Trade Centre. "We're one of the countries they're most willing to work with and learn from."

Dr Tan also noted that since the two countries formalised diplomatic ties 25 years ago, bilateral trade has increased more than 20 times, with the city-state China's top foreign investor. He said these figures show the confidence the two countries have in each other's future and "reflect the ability of Singapore and Singaporeans to make an impact wherever we are, despite the small size of our country".

People-to-people exchanges were also evident during Dr Tan's visit to Chinese tech giant Huawei yesterday, where he met 11 Singaporean university students on a two-week stint in Beijing and Shenzhen, to learn about Huawei's operations and Chinese culture.

"It's an opportunity to work with one of the top tech companies, in one of the biggest markets in the world," said Singapore Management University student Lim Yi Sheng, 24, explaining his decision to join the programme.

Mr Lim was one of the Singaporean students who introduced Huawei's mobile phone devices to Dr Tan, during the latter's tour of Huawei's executive briefing centre on the outskirts of the capital.

Dr Tan, a former university physics lecturer and former chairman of the National Research Foundation, was also briefed by Huawei chairman Sun Yafang.

He was especially interested in technology that would allow remote monitoring and controlling of functions in a house.

Dr Tan was impressed by Huawei's investments in R&D to tap new growth areas.

"The company has presence in Singapore and I am confident that it can contribute to Singapore's growth in new areas such as the Smart Nation Initiative," he said.

On his first state visit to China as President, Dr Tan is set to meet China's top leaders today and will be hosted to a state banquet by President Xi Jinping.

Greater push for key Sino-S'pore projects
Presidents of both nations agree to 'positively work' towards upgrade of free trade pact
By Teo Cheng Wee, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2015

Singapore and China have signalled a greater sense of urgency and higher priority for key bilateral projects, while taking stock of the factors that have underpinned 25 years of warm diplomatic ties.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to "positively work" towards an upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, as they met yesterday in a key leg of Dr Tan's first state visit to China as president.

An upgrade is timely given that the pact came into effect in 2009, said a statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday. Dr Tan expressed hope that the upgrade will begin within the year and be concluded swiftly.

Dr Tan and Mr Xi also noted the good progress made on the exploration of a third government-to-government project in western China. The two sides have worked together on the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City.

Mr Xi said the third project would be a priority. "We hope it can serve as a demonstration project for China's 'One Belt, One Road' initiative," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.

The pledge to work on these initiatives comes as both sides reviewed the warm ties that have been fostered since diplomatic relations were formalised 25 years ago.

Dr Tan is in China as part of a series of activities to mark the occasion. At their meeting, Mr Xi attributed the successful relationship to the big-picture, long-term approach that leaders from both nations have taken, Xinhua reported.

China and Singapore both focus on development strategies and look for economically complementary activities to work on, Mr Xi noted, adding that the two countries have also built effective mechanisms for cooperation.

He said the two countries should continue to strengthen strategic communications and political trust, maintain high-level interactions, and deepen trade and economic cooperation.

Despite the tensions that have arisen due to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Mr Xi yesterday told Dr Tan that China values the path of peaceful development and good neighbourliness. He said China wants to cooperate with Asean.

For its part, Singapore - which will take over as country coordinator for Asean-China Dialogue Relations next month - will work hard to build mutual trust and strengthen ties between Asean and China, Xinhua quoted Dr Tan as saying.

Mr Xi held a welcome ceremony for Dr Tan, complete with a 21-gun salute, and hosted the Singapore leader to a state banquet at the Great Hall of the People.

The two also witnessed the signing of three memorandums of understanding in the areas of education and research development.

On a busy day of meetings, Dr Tan also met Premier Li Keqiang.

He earlier jointly hosted a lunch reception with top Chinese political adviser Yu Zhengsheng to commemorate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

The two men also witnessed the handing over of a cheque for 3.7 million yuan (S$804,000) to the China Foundation of Poverty Alleviation, to build three hostels for 1,000 students in Ludian. The funds were raised by Singapore firms operating in China for the county in Yunnan province, which was hit by an earthquake last August.

Dr Tan ends his six-day state visit today.

Singapore 'must work hard to stay relevant to China'
No room for complacency as ties are now a two-way street, says President Tan
The Sunday Times, 5 Jul 2015

Singapore should not be complacent in engaging China, as it is not the same "tenuous and hesitant" country that it was on the world stage 25 years ago, when it started diplomatic ties with the city-state, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Bilateral ties are now a two-way street, with Singapore learning as much from China as China does from Singapore, noted Dr Tan during an interview with Singapore media yesterday, as his six-day state visit drew to a close.

Singapore must work hard to stay relevant to the Asian giant, he said, by enhancing collaborations such as upgrading the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) and exploring a third government- to-government project in China.

During Dr Tan's trip, he met important Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Mr Yu Zhengsheng, a top political adviser.

"One of the positive results of the meeting with Mr Xi is that both of us agree that we will work positively towards upgrading the CSFTA. So there is no doubt of it now - the signal will be sent down to the officials," Dr Tan said.

"The first step will be to have this scoping study, which should be launched immediately and, I hope, finalised expeditiously."

He noted that upgrading the CSFTA, which first came into effect in 2009, is important because there are more than 6,000 Chinese companies in Singapore and thousands of Singapore companies in China.

Dr Tan's visit came as China's swift advancement has raised concerns about the fading role of Singapore, after the Republic played a key part in helping China to modernise its economy in the early years of the country's development, through joint projects such as the Suzhou Industrial Park, which was started in 1994. Singapore has also acted as China's interlocutor with Western countries.

Acknowledging this concern, Dr Tan said: "China is different today. This is the second largest economy in the world, with dynamic enterprises, and much bigger than ours... They've caught up with Singapore and, in fact, one must expect that they'll surpass us in many ways because of their talent and resources."

He stressed that the Republic has to constantly evolve and adapt to deal with the changing needs of both countries. "We could become irrelevant if we do nothing."

Finding success in collaborations with China, he said, will hinge on identifying issues of common interest and concern. These may include urbanisation, infocommunications technology and governance.

Singapore also has to look to raise cooperation to new levels, even if the two sides now enjoy a "special and close" relationship, said Dr Tan. "It requires a lot of work because China is a huge country."

On the CSFTA, he said the next step is to define the scope of the upgrade. New elements could include more comprehensive cooperation in services. "Trade in services is broader. It encompasses many areas, so we've got to try to tie it down to specific areas," he said.

Another closely watched bilateral project is the third government- to-government project. With the theme "modern connectivity and modern services", it was first proposed by China in 2013 and will be sited in its less developed western region. Singapore is exploring sectors like financial services and civil aviation for this project, noted Dr Tan, adding that it gives the two countries another reason to expedite the CSFTA's upgrading.

When asked if an announcement can be expected on the government-to government project when Mr Xi makes his return state visit to Singapore later this year, he said: "I'm sure we will work towards it."

Dr Tan returned home yesterday.

In Singapore, China finds a trusted friend
By Tan Chin Hwee, Published The Straits Times, 13 Jul 2015

"All great things start from the beginning," poet-philosopher Lao Tzu said.

Ever since Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited China nearly four decades ago for a meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong , the relationship between Singapore and China has been a unique one.

On the economic front, China was Singapore's top trading partner and export destination last year, with trade totalling $121.5 billion, up from $115.2 billion in 2013. Singapore was also China's largest foreign investor for the second consecutive year in 2014, with investments of US$5.8 billion (S$7.8 billion) in over 700 projects.

Issues of governance also rank highly on both countries' lists, with officials visiting one another regularly for insights and exchanges. Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam's recent state visit, hosted by President Xi Jinping to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties, is a testimony to ties at a personal level between the leaderships of the two countries.

Mr Lee, Dr Goh Keng Swee and other Singapore officials of their generation and after have left an intimate relationship built over four decades.

However, since the 1980s, when the first special economic zones were built with Singapore's help, the dynamics have slowly changed: Singapore is no longer just the teacher and China the keen student. As students of management studies well know, being influenceable holds the key to influencing others.

Singapore has had to adapt to the changing circumstances and mould the relationship into one where both countries participate in an exchange of insights and best practices.

Maintaining goodwill with mutual respect should be a key consideration, along with fostering cooperation in existing and new initiatives. An example of a successful government-to-government project is the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, started in 2007 to develop a sustainable model of urban living.

Maintaining the precarious positioning of Singapore on the global stage should be another priority. Singapore has been a trusted bridge between the West and East, and has maintained a neutral stance on global issues, from the South China Sea territorial disputes to the US desire to rebalance to Asia. Being a small nation state, Singapore has the virtue of remaining non-partisan in confrontations.

It also has to continue to find ways to add value to Asia and the world. Singapore is taking steps to increase worker productivity, spearheading thought leadership and leveraging on its networks to help citizens and neighbours reach their potential.

As a member of Asean, it can continue to play a key coordinator role between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, mainland China and Hong Kong.

Given that mainland China and Hong Kong have been at the forefront of the global economy, it is in Singapore's interest to maintain a good relationship with both, working together to strengthen governance and add value to each other's economy through investments and trade. These exchanges can be effective only with respect and humility.

The Singapore Summit in September is one event that demonstrates Singapore's role in the global arena.

It provides a platform for leaders to discus economics and seek solutions to problems.

Fifty years ago, no one could have predicted that this small country with no natural resources would reach its current state. Nevertheless, we should not rest on our laurels nor shy away from sharing this unique experience with China. As one senior China Securities Regulatory Commission official told me last week: "Why should we waste time learning from the West blindly? We should just watch Singapore, which has digested these learnings in the past and has adapted them well to our unique Asian circumstances."

Indeed, being influenceable is the key to influencing others.

The writer is an institutional investor and author of Asia Financial Statement Analysis: Detecting Financial Irregularities.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.

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