Thursday 21 September 2017

Singapore, China look to new areas of cooperation; PM Lee Hsien Loong's Official Visit to China, 19 to 21 Sep 2017

These include financial, defence and legal matters, as leaders reaffirm deep friendship
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 21 Sep 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed new areas of bilateral cooperation yesterday, as they reaffirmed the deep and strong friendship built over the years by successive generations of leaders.

The new areas of bilateral cooperation include those in financial, judicial and legal matters, as well as in defence, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement.

PM Lee, who visited Chinese tech start-up SenseTime, also expressed Singapore's interest to learn from China's experience in growing a vibrant environment for technology start-ups, the PMO said.

The two leaders' meet at the Great Hall of the People.

In his opening remarks, Mr Xi noted that "in this new historical chapter, there are many opportunities to build our ties in substantial and fruitful ways".

The Chinese leader said Mr Lee's visit embodies mutual consensus to advancing bilateral relations, and demonstrates the closeness of ties.

The leaders reaffirmed the deep and strong friendship built over generations of high-level interactions between Singapore and Chinese leaders. They expressed hope that the close relationship will be taken forward by successive generations.

Mr Lee said he was grateful to receive an invitation to visit China at this busy time, when China is preparing for next month's 19th Party Congress, the country's twice-in-a-decade leadership transition.

Both leaders agreed their countries enjoy strategic congruence and share common interests in many areas, which contributed to their close and multifaceted cooperation over the years. This included the successful collaboration in the three government-to-government projects, namely Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-City and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.

They also noted the important role played by the major bilateral mechanisms, such as the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation and Singapore-China Leadership Forum, which are all chaired by the respective deputy prime minister and vice-premier, and the Judicial and Legal Roundtable co-chaired by the countries' chief justices.

Both leaders, whose meeting was the top item on state broadcaster CCTV's 7pm news bulletin, also agreed to continue working closely to promote even stronger ASEAN-China ties under Singapore's coordinatorship of ASEAN-China dialogue relations and as Singapore assumes the role of ASEAN chair next year.

Mr Xi expressed appreciation for Singapore's early support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The leaders highlighted the potential of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative and Southern Transport Corridor to play a vital role in supporting the BRI as well as China's domestic developmental priorities, particularly in western China.

Mr Lee said he welcomed Chinese companies to submit strong and competitive bids for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail project, given China's extensive experience in the field.

He also met parliamentary chief Zhang Dejiang and anti-graft czar Wang Qishan yesterday.

Mr Zhang said he was pleased to see Mr Lee again. They last met 11 years ago when he was the party secretary of Guangdong province. He said Mr Lee's meetings with China's top leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday, showed the country attached great importance to his visit, and to developing friendly relations with Singapore. All four leaders sit on China's top decision-making body, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee.

Mr Lee and his delegation left for Xiamen, Fujian province, last night.

Singapore-China ties good but need to keep up with the times: PM Lee Hsien Loong
Republic's role needs to change as China develops, for relationship to stay meaningful
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2017

Singapore's relationship with China is in a good state, and China's leaders want the two countries to do more together, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

At the same time, the relationship is changing as China develops, and Singapore's role needs to change too for this relationship to stay meaningful, he told reporters as he wrapped up his three-day official visit to China yesterday.

Mr Lee, who met four of the seven members of China's apex Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, said the Chinese leaders gave positive assessments of ties and were keen on improving them.

"Bilateral relations are stable - more than stable, they are in a good state," said Mr Lee. "We had some issues to deal with last year, but this year, there have been many exchanges (including) the JCBC (Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation) meeting in February."

But while joint programmes and projects are progressing on many fronts, such as an agreement to cooperate on judicial and legal matters inked last month, China today is different from when ties began.

"In the old days, China was in a different place. Singapore was able to play a different role because China had not yet opened up, and we were able to help them in this process," said Mr Lee. "Now, they are in a much more developed situation, (with) many more links with all the major players, but Singapore needs to continue to be able to add value to China in order for the relationship to be worthwhile for both sides."

Singapore has an advantage over most other countries through its cultural affinity with China, but it is also necessary sometimes to flag the fact that the Republic has a distinct identity, Mr Lee noted.

"For us to take advantage of that cultural affinity, and at the same time to be able to maintain a distinct identity and be quite clear that we are multiracial and we are not a Chinese society, that is something which we will continue to have to manage, and continue to have to try to maintain in China."

This is one reason why he tries to include non-Chinese ministers or appointment holders on trips to China, he said. "It visibly shows that we are different, but we are friendly."

For bilateral ties to stay durable, relationships also have to be nurtured and cultivated continually, which is why there are younger ministers on this visit, said Mr Lee.

Ministers on this trip include Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Lee noted that Chinese leaders, too, have devoted energy to building up relationships over the long term. For instance, Mr Xi, who visited Singapore in 2015, was a visitor here as far back as the 1980s, when he was vice-mayor of Xiamen.

But for ties to stay robust, the private sector and individuals also have a role to play, noted Mr Lee, who said he was glad to see many Singaporeans working in China, whether for MNCs or Singapore firms.

He pointed to the example set by 10 Singaporean business people he had lunch with on Wednesday, a diverse bunch including a pig farm operator in Shandong province.

That is the way forward, said Mr Lee - not having a single masterplan, but with individuals and businesses seizing opportunities. "They have become familiar with China, they understand how to work and they see the opportunities," he said. "And I think Singaporeans ought to see those opportunities and take the relationship forward."

PM Lee Hsien Loong thanks China's top graft-buster Wang Qishan for cultivating ties
Singapore leaders honoured to be in Beijing just ahead of CCP leadership congress: PM Lee
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 21 Sep 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met China's top graft-buster Wang Qishan yesterday, and thanked him for his contributions to Sino-Singapore ties over the years.

"We are very honoured to be here just before the 19th Party Congress," Mr Lee said in his opening remarks, referring to a twice-a- decade meeting next month when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reshuffles its top leadership. The congress will start on Oct 18.

"We know it is a very busy time for you and for all your colleagues, and we are very appreciative that you are spending time to cultivate this bilateral relationship and take our cooperation another step forward."

Mr Wang, 69, heads the CCP's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, or anti-corruption watchdog, and sits on its top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

He said that since China embarked on a path of reform and opening up more than 30 years ago, its leadership has been following what Singapore does very closely.

Singapore, he noted, is one of the countries he has had the most contact with. When he was vice-premier, Mr Wang co-chaired the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) from 2008 to 2012 with his Singapore counterpart.

The JCBC, the top body steering bilateral ties between the two countries, is currently co-chaired by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, who is also a PSC member.

In their meeting, Mr Lee thanked Mr Wang for his contributions to bilateral ties in his various capacities over the years, the Prime Minister's Office said. They also exchanged views on the experiences of Singapore and China in tackling corruption and learning from each other's best practices, it added.

Yesterday's meeting was notable as Mr Wang has kept out of the limelight and has seldom met foreign guests since becoming a key enforcer of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign in 2012.

Even as Mr Wang said he was "pleasantly surprised" by Mr Lee's request to meet him, it is in keeping with the top leaders' desire to build on bilateral ties forged by earlier leaders.

On tackling corruption, Chinese officials have visited Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, including Politburo member Sun Chunlan in 2013. A crucial reform proposal launched in November that year made direct references to Singapore's model for preventing and fighting corruption.

In his remarks, Mr Wang also paid tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, saying that he "had the privilege of having personal conversations with him on multiple occasions".

"He (was) such a visionary figure full of political wisdom," he said. "I gained a lot every time I talked with him... I am really greatly saddened by his passing. He was indeed a great man."

PM Lee looks forward to more Singapore, Xiamen exchanges
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2017

XIAMEN (Fujian) • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that he hopes his visit to Xiamen, in Fujian province, will lead to more exchanges and projects between Singapore and the Chinese city.

In a meeting with Fujian party secretary You Quan, Mr Lee marvelled at how much the city has changed since his last visit 26 years ago, when it was just starting to open up. "Last night, driving in from the airport, I could not recognise the landscape. It has completely changed," he said.

"I was hoping to be able to visit Gulangyu (Gulang Island) again this time, which I did in the previous trip, but unfortunately, I would not have the chance. But we could see it across the water and we could see Zheng Chenggong's statue last night beautifully lit up," said Mr Lee, referring to the Ming dynasty loyalist who took control of Taiwan in 1662.

Gulangyu, known for pianos and European-style houses, was made a UNESCO heritage site this summer.

Mr Lee said he visited Zhongshan Road, the heart of Xiamen's commercial area, where he officiated at the unveiling of the reconstructed OCBC building yesterday morning.

He said the Singapore delegation had the chance to walk around to get a sense of its atmosphere.

He said: "There is a vibrancy and enthusiasm and entrepreneurship zeal which will generate a lot of progress and prosperity."

Mr Lee told Mr You: "I hope that my visit could stimulate interest in greater connection, greater exchanges and more projects and cooperation between Singapore and Xiamen."

Mr You noted the good meetings Mr Lee had with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, national legislature chief Zhang Dejiang and top graft-buster Wang Qishan in Beijing. "I believe your visit this time will further the traditional relationship between China and Singapore, as well as our close cooperation," he said.

Fujian has enjoyed rapid development in the past three decades after China's reform and opening up, said Mr You, noting Xiamen was designated as one of China's four special economic zones back then.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, one of the Singapore ministers on the trip, met his counterpart Chang Wanquan yesterday. Dr Ng wrote on Facebook that they met to "discuss practical ways to strengthen our defence relations".

Singapore and China to deepen defence ties, cooperation
Ng Eng Hen and Chinese defence minister explore concrete ways to boost relations
By Lim Yan Liang,  China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 23 Sep 2017

Singapore and China will deepen defence ties further, such as by stepping up bilateral exercises between their navies and armies.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday he had a successful trip to Beijing, where he met State Councillor and Minister of National Defence, General Chang Wanquan.

The two ministers agreed to reaffirm the commitment to deepen defence ties and build mutual trust and practical cooperation between both countries when they met on Thursday, Singapore's Ministry of Defence said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Ng wrote on Facebook that he and Gen Chang explored concrete and practical ways to deepen defence relations based on the four-point consensus reached in 2014.

Under the consensus, Singapore and China pledged a steady development of the defence relationship, based on mutual respect and accommodating each other's security concerns for mutual trust.

They also agreed to enhance dialogue and mutual understanding through regular high-level meetings and strategic consultation, promote confidence-building and mutual trust through practical cooperation such as joint training exercises, and deepen friendship through increased exchanges and dialogues between their militaries.

Dr Ng had said in 2014, when he and Gen Chang signed the consensus, that the document "goes beyond the motherhood statements" as it lays out the principle of mutual regard, respect and accommodation of each side's security needs for mutual trust, and substantively spells out ways to grow ties.

Since then, bilateral defence ties have progressed steadily. A new bilateral naval exercise, Exercise Maritime Cooperation, introduced in 2015, comprises conventional naval warfare serials, exercise planning and combined simulator training ashore, MINDEF said.

Dr Ng was part of the delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to China this week.

At the meeting, Gen Chang acknowledged the role Singapore, as the country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations, has played to improve defence ties between China and ASEAN. Looking ahead to Singapore's role as ASEAN chair next year, the two ministers agreed to strengthen ASEAN-China ties further to enhance regional peace and stability, MINDEF said.

Dr Ng congratulated the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on its 90th anniversary. He also invited Gen Chang and the PLA leadership to visit Singapore.

OCBC's presence a symbol of enduring Sino-Singapore ties: Heng Swee Keat
Finance Minister sees regulators, banks from both sides deepening ties as financial activity grows
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Xiamen (Fujian), The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2017

A reconstructed OCBC building in Xiamen yesterday was held up as a symbol of the longstanding ties between Singapore and China by Singapore's Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat.

Noting that the bank has a long history in China - having opened its doors here in 1925, decades before China became a key global investment destination - Mr Heng said: "The China-Singapore relationship is similarly an enduring one that has stood the test of time."

"We have a vibrant economic relationship - China is Singapore's largest trading partner, while Singapore is the largest foreign direct investor in China. Our financial agencies have worked hard together to strengthen cooperation. We have made good progress and will strive to do better,'' he said in a speech at the unveiling of the OCBC building.

Mr Heng sees banks and regulators from both countries deepening ties as financial activity grows.

He said China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a plan to connect the country with Europe, Asia and beyond via infrastructure projects and trade, and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, a Sino-Singapore project, provide more avenues to expand financial and economic cooperation.

He added: "Singapore will work with China to support the BRI, by promoting greater use of the RMB (renminbi) for regional infrastructure projects; strengthening capital market linkages between Singapore and China, such as in the bond markets; and working together to train officials from BRI countries in the area of finance."

OCBC Bank's group chief executive Samuel Tsien said in his speech that Singapore was "uniquely qualified to play a conduit role" in relation to the BRI.

He recounted the bank's history in China, adding that Xiamen is its first entry point into China.

Its reconstructed building in Xiamen's Zhongshan Road stands on the site of its former building, which was completed in 1947 and housed its Xiamen branch. The reconstructed building has retained the modern-classical architectural style, and its green glaze canopy is also a holdover from the original design of 70 years ago, said Mr Tsien.

Xiamen Deputy Mayor Han Jingyi also remarked on the links between Singapore and the city. He said economic, trade, cultural and other ties have been growing since Xiamen was picked as the site of one of four special economic zones 36 years ago, as part of China's economic development drive. The first foreign firm in the zone was Singapore-funded Inhwa Tiles Products, "which took a leading role in Xiamen's opening-up drive", he added.

The two sides have maintained stable growth in trade, with trade volume reaching 8.06 billion yuan (S$1.65 billion) last year and 3.32 billion yuan in the first half of this year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mrs Lee and Fujian province Deputy Governor Lee Dejin were at the ceremony, which was also witnessed by OCBC Wing Hang China's CEO Kng Hwee Tin and other guests.

Mr Lee later visited ST Aerospace Technologies (Xiamen), a high- tech aviation engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility opened in 2011. The facility and another in Guangzhou are part of ST Aerospace's global network of MRO facilities that have consistently won top industry honours, such as first place in Aviation Week Network's biennial top 10 Airframe MRO service providers, a position it has held since 2002.

Polyclinic in China with a close Singapore connection
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2017

XIAMEN (Fujian) • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited a polyclinic yesterday. Not just any polyclinic, but the first set up jointly by Singapore and China, back in 2011.

At the Fujian (Xiamen)-Singapore Friendship Polyclinic, Mr Lee walked the wards, saw patients undergoing traditional Chinese medicine treatments such as cupping and acupuncture, and was briefed on the polyclinic's set-up.

The health facility was built with nearly 10 million yuan (S$2 million) raised by Singaporeans and the Xiamen municipal government, which granted 2,000 sq m of land for it.

Singapore architect Liu Thai Ker designed it for free, while the Temasek Foundation donated $650,000 for a staff training programme.

The polyclinic was set up to support China's push to improve public healthcare, which is among the government's top national priorities.

PM Lee explores cutting-edge technology in visit to Chinese firm
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Sep 2017

BEIJING • Unlocking doors with one's face, turning into a mythical character on livestream and solving maths problems with gestures - these were some of the cutting- edge technologies that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tried out at Chinese technology firm SenseTime in Beijing yesterday.

Having said that Singapore should learn from China in emerging areas such as cashless payments, Mr Lee took the lead with his visit to the artificial intelligence (AI) company that focuses on facial recognition, big data analysis and deep learning.

SenseTime, set up in 2014, is a rising star in China's start-up scene and counts major companies China Mobile, UnionPay, Weibo and Huawei among its clients.

Mr Lee was shown technologies that Singapore has been trying to roll out under its Smart Nation initiative. These include an AI-enabled surveillance camera network that the Chongqing government has used to monitor and track 70 suspected criminals. Fourteen have been nabbed to date using the system.

SenseTime's chairman, Professor Tang Xiaoou, showed Mr Lee how traffic cameras can be made smarter: Using the firm's technology, computers are able to differentiate different forms of passenger and vehicular traffic from a livestream of vehicles passing right outside the office.

The company also demonstrated the military applications of its technologies. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saw how AI can be used to analyse satellite imagery for military assets, and topographic and terrain data. The technologies also have disaster-relief applications, such as the mapping of road conditions and detecting cracks.

Singapore has been on a push to not only roll out more sensors such as surveillance cameras and air quality monitors, but also harness technology such as machine learning to make sense of the vast sea of data that is being collected.

The applications of AI as demonstrated by SenseTime, including the use of facial recognition as an authentication method, are relevant to three major projects under way in Singapore: The Smart Nation Sensor Platform, the National Digital Identity and e-payments.

SenseTime's technology touches all three fields.

Prof Tang shared that his firm's facial recognition is being used by a major retail client for payments in a trial cashierless department store. It is successful enough that a second one has been planned.

SenseTime has raised at least US$410 million (S$551 million) to date in venture capital, and is valued at US$1.5 billion, putting it at No. 56 on the China Money Network's China Unicorn Ranking of private tech companies valued at US$1 billion or more in China.

Singapore to forge stronger ASEAN-China cooperation: PM Lee
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 20 Sep 2017

Singapore will promote stronger ASEAN-China cooperation during its chairmanship of the regional grouping next year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a meeting with Premier Li Keqiang yesterday, the first day of his visit to China.

Both leaders touched on ASEAN-China ties, and affirmed the progress made during Singapore's ongoing tenure as country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said after the meeting.

"Premier Li expressed support for Singapore's ASEAN chairmanship in 2018," the PMO added.

Mr Li said he hoped Singapore would help to bring new vitality to ASEAN-China ties.

PM Lee said he was glad for the opportunity for both sides to discuss how to work together for the regional context and for ASEAN, and hoped Singapore can make a contribution to bring ASEAN and China closer together.

Yesterday, PM Lee received a ceremonial welcome from Premier Li before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

They discussed regional developments, and expressed their deep concern over the heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Mr Li also accepted PM Lee's invitation to visit Singapore at the earliest mutually convenient time.

At the meeting were Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin.

Mr Li was joined by National Development and Reform Commission chairman He Lifeng, Housing and Urban-Rural Development Minister Wang Menghui, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui.

PM Lee said in a Facebook post after a banquet last night that the meeting was "fruitful", adding: "Will do our best to bring ASEAN and China closer together."

China places great importance on ties with Singapore: Premier Li Keqiang
Both sides have gained from the relationship built on mutual respect, equal footing, he says
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 20 Sep 2017

China has always placed great importance on bilateral ties with Singapore, Premier Li Keqiang told Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who arrived for a three-day official visit yesterday.

The relationship is built on a foundation of mutual respect and equal footing, Mr Li said, and this has benefited the people of both countries.

Mr Lee thanked the Premier for extending a warm welcome, and said he was grateful for Mr Li's attention to bilateral ties.

The two leaders held a 45-minute meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, which was preceded by an official welcome ceremony. Mr Li also hosted a dinner banquet in Mr Lee's honour.

At their meeting, the leaders reaffirmed the warm and longstanding friendship between Singapore and China. They welcomed the frequent high-level interactions between leaders of the two countries in recent months, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

They also reviewed the extensive and substantive bilateral cooperation between Singapore and China, especially in economic and financial collaboration, the PMO added.

They welcomed the good progress made in negotiations for the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and discussed the potential for deepening bilateral ties through new areas of collaboration, such as in financial and judicial and legal cooperation.

Mr Li, who last met Mr Lee at the ASEAN Summit in Laos a year ago, welcomed Singapore's support for China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The two leaders noted the potential of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, their countries' third government-to-government project, to link the land- and sea-based trade routes.

On ASEAN-China ties, Mr Lee told Mr Li that Singapore will promote stronger cooperation between the two sides when it takes over as ASEAN chair next year.

At a press conference for international media, Mr Bai Tian, vice-director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Asian department, said both sides pledged to strengthen cooperation at all levels. This included the three ongoing government-to-government projects in Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing, as well as official platforms such as the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, which is co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

Mr Bai said Mr Lee's visit sends a "very important political signal", given that China will be holding a key political meeting soon.

The Chinese Communist Party will convene its 19th Party Congress starting on Oct 18, a twice- a-decade reshuffle of the top echelons of the Chinese leadership.

"For Singapore to visit on the eve of the meeting shows that both sides have maintained high-level visits at a good momentum, and is a very important political signal," Mr Bai said. "I am very confident in China-Singapore relations and, with hard work from both sides, the relationship will grow from strength to strength."

Mr Lee will meet President Xi Jinping, parliamentary chief Zhang Dejiang and Mr Wang Qishan, who heads the party's commission for discipline inspection, today.

He will travel to Xiamen in Fujian province, where he will meet provincial party chief You Quan. He will visit ST Aerospace Technologies (Xiamen) Company and a polyclinic set up jointly by Singapore and China in 2011.

Singapore to ensure ties with China advance with the times: PM Lee
Partnership has evolved over three decades, he says ahead of trip to China; both have much to learn from each other
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent In Beijing, The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2017

Singapore has been working with China at each step of its development, and will continue to ensure that the partnership advances with the times, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview published yesterday.

Noting that China's transformation has been very fast-paced, Mr Lee laid out how the Singapore- China partnership at the government level has also evolved over the past three decades.

From the Suzhou Industrial Park in the early 1990s which focused on industrialisation, to the Tianjin Eco-City which emphasised sustainable development, Singapore has chosen projects which are meaningful to China and compatible with China's own policy focus and development priorities of the time, he told Xinhuanet ahead of his three-day official visit to China starting today.

The new Chongqing Connectivity Initiative is also in this vein, with its focus on modern services such as banking and logistics, plugging into China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its push to develop its western frontier.

He added that a memorandum of understanding that Singapore and China signed in May will spur both sides to deepen collaboration on the BRI to build ports, roads, railways and industrial parks along sea and land trade routes.

For instance, a Chinese company looking to expand into the region can "borrow Singapore's strengths" by setting up a regional headquarters in the Republic to take advantage of its financial centre, transportation hub, and trade and services facilities, he said.

But Mr Lee also stressed that both countries have much to learn from each other.

Besides the training of officials, he cited the Singapore-China Forum on Leadership and the Singapore-China Social Governance Forum as two ongoing platforms that bring officials together to exchange views and experiences, and said these "are never a one-way flow".

China's tremendous growth means that many of its brands and companies, such as Taobao, WeChat and Huawei, today possess cutting-edge technology that is among the world's best, and Mr Lee said he had personally witnessed how, over the past 30 years, China's prosperity had transformed all of its cities and provinces.

This "national-level transformation" has touched many aspects of Chinese society, from highways to telecommunication networks, and has also changed people's lives and outlook, he added.

He cited the cashless payments revolution as one area in which China has moved faster and gone farther than any other country, noting that for many Chinese today, an empty wallet is less a problem than a phone that has gone flat.

Mr Lee said he had shared the Chinese example in his National Day Rally speech in the hope that it will spur Singapore to do better in its push to become a Smart Nation.

On his trip, Mr Lee will meet President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, who will host a welcome ceremony and dinner banquet in his honour, and top legislator Zhang Dejiang.

Mr Lee will also travel to Xiamen to meet top officials there, and visit ST Aerospace Technologies (Xiamen) Company and the Fujian (Xiamen)-Singapore Friendship Polyclinic, the first polyclinic jointly set up by Singapore and China in 2011.

He will also attend a commemorative event to mark the completion of the refurbishment of the facade of the OCBC Building.

Accompanying PM Lee are Mrs Lee, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will be the Acting Prime Minister while Mr Lee is away.

Singapore will try to boost China-ASEAN relations
By Lim Yan Liang, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2017

BEIJING • For ASEAN-China trade to flourish, both sides need to work at keeping overall ties strong, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Alluding to the need for rationality and restraint on thorny issues such as the South China Sea dispute, Mr Lee said that frictions in the relationship will only affect mutually beneficial cooperation.

This is why Singapore will do its best to positively advance ASEAN-China relations when it assumes the grouping's chairmanship next year, he said in an interview with Xinhuanet ahead of his official visit to China beginning today.

Mr Lee was asked by Xinhuanet to take stock of ties ahead of next year, an important milestone for ASEAN-China relations.

Next year marks 15 years since China became ASEAN's first dialogue partner to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-east Asia. It was also the first dialogue partner to establish a strategic partnership with ASEAN in the same year (2003).

Mr Lee highlighted the importance of good relations even as he emphasised that ASEAN-China ties today are deep and multifaceted.

He noted that China is the largest trading partner for many of ASEAN's 10 member countries.

China is also ASEAN's largest source of foreign tourists, with more than 38 million trips recorded between the two sides last year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends the annual ASEAN summit, and he has plenty to discuss each time he meets ASEAN leaders, Mr Lee added.

This shows not only that the basic relationship is there, but also that the state of relations between China and ASEAN, as well as bilateral ties between China and individual ASEAN countries, is crucial, he said.

While ties between China and some ASEAN states with claims in the South China Sea hit a low point last year after an international arbitral tribunal ruled against China's territorial claims there, relations have since recovered.

ASEAN and China have steadily improved practical cooperation in the disputed waters over the past year, such as by starting Foreign Ministry to Foreign Ministry hotlines.

This month, officials from both sides kicked off discussions that lay the groundwork for negotiations on a Code of Conduct to manage disputes in the South China Sea.

As the country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations currently, and as ASEAN chair next year, Singapore will certainly try to promote cooperation and coordination between ASEAN and China, said Mr Lee.

The Prime Minister was also asked about a key upcoming tender for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project.

He said he hopes to see a Chinese proposal, given China's wealth of expertise and technology accrued in building its own high-speed rail network over the past decade.

Mr Lee said he is sure that the Chinese proposal would be of a high quality, and that it would be given "objective and serious consideration".

How Singapore-China ties have kept up with the times
The Straits Times, 20 Sep 2017

China is undergoing a big rejuvenation as its tech-based businesses lead the world. A successful China is good for Singapore and the world, says PM Lee. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is on an official visit to China which started yesterday and ends tomorrow. These are highlights from an interview in Mandarin he gave to Xinhuanet last Saturday.

Q For past China-Singapore economic and trade cooperation, not only was it strong from a wide point of view, there were many pragmatic projects. There are several industrial parks at the national and provincial levels. When we talk about China-Singapore cooperation, the cooperation in industrial parks is very conspicuous, such as the Suzhou Industrial Park, the flagship project between both nations. In today's economic and trade relations, there are changes in the regional economies, and there are also changes in the industrial economy. What do you think are the new ways and formats to further promote the trade and economic cooperation between China and Singapore?

A Bilateral cooperation must advance with the times - 与时俱进.

As China is developing very fast, its needs are different at every stage of the development, so the focus of bilateral cooperation must also match correspondingly.

In response to the bilateral cooperation, people are also cooperating very quickly, so they will naturally find the most favourable market which will allow them to play the biggest role.

Country to country, the first important project between China and Singapore was the Suzhou Industrial Park which began in the early 1990s. At that time, China was developing different development zones, attracting investment and wooing foreign investments, so we developed the Suzhou Industrial Park. It was (mainly) the transfer of software - transferring the software of some industrial park management and attracting investments. The industrial park can now be said to be mature, successful, and may even have a chance to be listed one day. This can be said to be the first flagship project.

The second flagship project was the Tianjin Eco-City which we did 10 years ago. At that time, China was concerned about sustainable development and environmental protection, so the eco-city focused on these two themes. (However) the eco-city was not limited to these two themes in the last 10 years. We are now talking about some issues of the smart cities, and have also held some projects on healthcare training. This is also related to issues of social management and social policy.

The third project is in Chongqing, the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity. This is the latest project; it is, of course, still at the initial stage, at the starting point.

We hope it can provide a demonstration for China's western development drive, as the theme of this project is connectivity and modern service industry. The service industry covers finance, banking and logistics, so this is not just hardware, or not just some investment in construction and factories, but the facilitation and simplification of the system, operation and services, so that companies can develop their potential as far as possible.

For example, for the Chongqing project, we are now discussing a proposal for the Southern Transport Corridor. The Southern Transport Corridor concerns the railway from Gansu to Chongqing, and all the way to the Qinzhou Port in Guangxi Beibu Gulf.

The railway is already there, but the problem is that we need to simplify the procedures, reduce the time, reduce costs, so that companies can use this logistical line and export goods more conveniently.

The western part of China may have rich resources and a vast territory with a big population, but it faces a big problem of too great a distance, so it is not so convenient to reach the international market, as there is a distance of thousands of kilometres from the Yangtze River down to Shanghai.

It will be more convenient and faster if we use the Southern Transport Corridor to reach Beibu Gulf. It will also be faster from Beibu Gulf to Singapore, and also very convenient to reach South-east Asia. From South-east Asia, you can immediately use the international shipping to go to all the countries in the world.

These are the specific cooperation projects, and we choose key areas which are meaningful to China, able to match China's policy focus and developments. We do it together when both sides feel it is meaningful and there is value in them.

Q On the basis of economic and trade cooperation, both countries cannot avoid cooperation in areas like social governance, sustainable development and cultural exchanges. On the basis of trade and economic ties, what do you think are other areas of cooperation between Singapore and China?

A In fact, many Chinese officials have come to Singapore for training, and many officials from Singapore have visited China, too, for observation tours, so both of us learn from each other and exchange experiences.

This is very valuable. We also have some formal cooperation projects. For example, we have held the Forum on Leadership with the Organisation Department, and also a high-level Social Governance Forum with the Political and Legal Affairs Commission.

These forums provide a platform for our officials and cadres to have the opportunity to interact, learn from each other, and absorb each other's experiences. This is a two-way exchange, and not only a one-way exchange.

We face some similar problems, and even though our national conditions are different, we can look at how others are solving problems, get some inspiration, and be more flexible and more effective in dealing with our own problems.

Q In 2015, Singapore launched the smart nation vision for 2025, and this is Singapore's national policy. You have mentioned recently the convenience of mobile payment in China. Why do you raise China as an example for electronic payment?

A Because you have moved at the fastest pace in this area, and may be the most advanced and most widespread in the world.

I have not experienced China's electronic payments personally, but my friends told me that cash is no longer used in China, and payments are made via Alipay or WeChat. So when people go out, they say they do not fear not having money in the pockets, but fear that the batteries run flat in their mobile phones, so this is a very convenient payment system for the residents.

We have not reached this level, we are still trying. But to see China reaching that level, I want to inspire Singaporeans that if China can do it, we should learn from them, learn from their experience, and we should also be able to do it. In fact, in Singapore, some merchants are also offering the Alipay service, including some taxis. You can use Alipay to pay if you board the taxis, so it will be a convenience for tourists from China, making them feel at home.

Q The Chinese Communist Party will convene the 19th party congress on Oct 18. I would like to ask you for your evaluation of China's overall development in the next five or 10 years.

A I have visited China for more than 30 years, and over the past 30 years, I have witnessed a huge change in China. All the cities and all the provinces are much more prosperous than before, and have grown many times. Not all the cities are like Shanghai or Beijing, but all the cities have made huge progress compared to 10 or 20 years ago.

This is a national change, and there are also huge changes in the areas of infrastructure, for example airports, highways, high-speed rail, communications and telecommunication networks. One can go online immediately in every place and in every city in China. Life is very convenient today; this was unthinkable 30 years ago.

China's companies, including telecommunication companies and various technology companies, are in fact among the best on the international platform, or on the global platform. Taobao, WeChat, Huawei - these are not only big companies, but companies with very advanced leading technology.

Therefore, China has made a lot of progress in many areas. Our deepest impression is that the thinking of the Chinese people has changed, and their way of life is different; their expectations of the future, their determination to solve problems, their courage to seek new breakthroughs, all this does not come by easily.

Everyone feels that the people of China have stood up. From the Opium Wars more than 160 years ago to the present, China is going through a great rejuvenation -大复兴 - and it wants to boost its own capability with this courage and this determination.

I think there will certainly be challenges in the next five to 10 years. China is a big and complex country, and running China is never a simple matter. But with such courage and unity, China will certainly overcome the difficulties, continue to develop and move forward.

From Singapore's point of view, we think this is a very good thing, because a successful China, one which is prosperous and self-confident, a China with peaceful and mutually beneficial ties with neighbouring countries and other countries is not only a blessing for China, but also a good thing for the world.

Translated by Lim Ruey Yan

The way forward for Singapore-China relationship
By Goh Sui Noi, China Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, 23 Sep 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to China this week served to stabilise and improve ties between Singapore and China after a blip last year, with both sides expressing keenness to take the relationship forward.

Chinese media have been mainly positive about Mr Lee's first official visit in four years to Beijing - his last being in August 2013 - although some, like the nationalistic Global Times, were more reserved.

Beijing certainly made Mr Lee feel welcome. Both Singapore and Chinese flags were flying from lamp posts in Chang'an Avenue, and his meeting with President Xi Jinping on the second day was the top item of the main news bulletin of state broadcaster CCTV. Along with clips of his meetings with two other top leaders that day, Mr Lee's visit took up a total of seven minutes of the 30-minute bulletin.

Mr Lee also got to meet four of the seven members of the apex Politburo Standing Committee, something that has not happened since his first official visit to China as Prime Minister in 2005.

This visit took place at a crucial and busy time for China, just short of a month before a five-yearly national congress of the Chinese Communist Party where a leadership transition will take place.

Such cordial treatment is in stark contrast to what has been widely seen as a cold shoulder last May, when Mr Lee was one of just three ASEAN leaders not invited to the inaugural Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, presided over by Mr Xi.

The treatment this time has led China Daily to opine in an editorial that "China-Singapore relations are resilient" and that Mr Lee's visit would help to revive "previously strong rapport" after months of unease in the two countries' relationship.

However, in a sign that things are not yet all hunky-dory, Mr Xi, at his meeting with Mr Lee, said the two sides needed to build mutual political trust and support each other on issues of core interests and major concerns.

"Beefing up mutual political trust and continuing to consolidate and develop bilateral ties are in line with the interests of both countries and their people, and will also benefit regional and global peace, stability and prosperity," he was quoted by China Daily as saying.

While Mr Xi did not spell out what he was referring to, Chinese media have pointed to Singapore's stand on the tribunal ruling in July last year in a case on the South China Sea dispute brought by the Philippines against China, as the start of the souring of bilateral ties.

Singapore had said then that it had taken note of the ruling and that it supported the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the principles of international law.

However, to the Chinese, as China Daily put it, Singapore had urged China to accept the ruling, which Beijing had rejected as illegal and invalid.

The Global Times, in an editorial on Tuesday, said China needed to develop an inclusive and cooperative relationship with Singapore, provided that "Singapore doesn't stir up trouble against China among ASEAN countries".

However, an opinion piece under the pseudonym Xiakedao in the overseas edition of the party newspaper, People's Daily, was more conciliatory.

"Objectively, the China-Singapore relationship has never left the 'right track', and the main reason is that the two countries have wide-ranging common interests," it said.

It went on to say that next year, Singapore would be ASEAN chair and that managing China-Singapore relations well was important to not just the two countries, but also the entire 10-member ASEAN grouping.

During his visit, Mr Lee made clear to the Chinese that Singapore would deepen cooperation between China and ASEAN.

Beyond the short term, however, Mr Lee admitted that the relationship was a changing one that Singapore needed to adjust to for it to stay meaningful.

While both sides have shown willingness to make efforts to move beyond the unhappy recent months, Singapore, as the smaller of the two countries, would likely have to be the more nimble in doing so.

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