Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Younger Singapore leaders will build on and improve ties with China: Heng Swee Keat

By Danson Cheong, China Correspondent In Nanjing, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2018

Even as Singapore undergoes leadership renewal and transition, its younger leaders will continue to build on and improve ties with China, visiting Finance Minister Heng Sweet Keat said yesterday.

In an address to 200 students and faculty members of Nanjing University, Mr Heng pointed to current leaders, like Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who have, over the years, built a "longstanding and close friendship" with their counterparts from China.

He noted that DPM Teo, head of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, has been described by former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli as an "old and good friend".

"It is our hope that as the younger leaders in Singapore step up to the helm, new friends will also become old friends and good friends," said Mr Heng, a member of the fourth-generation (4G) leadership.

Mr Heng, who is on the fifth day of a nine-day working visit to China, left for Shanghai yesterday.

Besides the dialogue, he also visited the university's artificial intelligence lab, and met Jiangsu governor Wu Zhenglong yesterday.

Today, he will travel to Beijing, where he is scheduled to meet Chinese leaders.

During his 40-minute speech in Nanjing, Mr Heng said it was timely to explore how to take the mutually beneficial cooperation between Singapore and China to the next level.

Mr Heng, who co-chairs the Singapore Jiangsu Cooperation Council, one of seven such councils to promote economic exchange and cooperation, also said that linkages between the two countries would be based on each nation dealing with its internal challenges and opportunities and working with each other to advance common interests.

He laid out three of Singapore's important leadership and governance principles.

First, governance and policies must change with the times and remain relevant.

"Our operating environments are always changing. People's aspirations evolve. These changes may become faster and more complex in the future," he said, adding that countries needed to prepare for three major shifts - an ageing population, the emergence of new technologies, and the shift in economic weightage towards Asia.

Second, policies must be formulated with depth, breadth and a long-term view.

This requires governments to engage citizens actively, widely and in a multi-faceted manner, said Mr Heng.

Finally, even as governments formulate their domestic policies, they need to actively collaborate with and learn from other countries as well as maintain good relations.

"Singapore seeks to be a credible and consistent partner, playing constructive roles in international affairs," he said.

Mr Heng said Singapore seeks to build good relations with other countries, be a friend to many and an enemy of none.

"In a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected, countries need to collaborate. No country has all the expertise it needs. Collaborations can achieve win-win outcomes," he said.

He cited China's reform and opening-up policy, a system of economic reforms started in 1978 by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, and President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as examples.

Earlier in his speech, Mr Heng said the reform and opening up policy was a key turning point for China, allowing it to achieve remarkable progress.

"Reform is necessary for opening up, and in turn, opening up stimulates more reforms," he said, calling the BRI the "next phase" of reform and opening up.

The BRI is an ambitious policy to build infrastructure to establish trade routes and boost connectivity from China to Asia, Europe and Africa. It would open up new frontiers of connectivity and areas of cooperation between Singapore and China, said Mr Heng.

"The BRI is very much in line with Singapore's development priorities... we look forward to more win-win partnerships in future," he said.

Mr Heng is accompanied on his visit by officials from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Enterprise Singapore, and the National Research Foundation.

Multilateral trading system best for the world: Heng Swee Keat
By Danson Cheong, China Correspondent, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2018

NANJING • China has been very restrained in its responses to the ongoing trade dispute with the United States, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

This was a "good thing", Mr Heng said in response to a question on the dispute at a Nanjing University dialogue. "A trade war will benefit no one, not even the country that starts it," he added.

His comments came after US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He concluded two days of talks over trade issues in the Chinese capital Beijing.

The two countries are locked in a dispute over the massive trade surplus in China's favour, and both sides have threatened to impose tariffs on goods worth up to US$150 billion (S$200 billion).

Mr Heng said that a multilateral trading system with a set of rules for all would be the "best for everybody in the world", pointing out that free trade agreements and regional trade deals were important building blocks for such an open, liberal system.

But he also said that the issue with free trade was that the benefits were spread widely, and those who lost out would feel the pain keenly.

Many consumers, for instance, benefited from better products at a cheaper price when Walmart imported products from China, but those who worked for companies which lost out because of the competition stood to lose their jobs.

"It is not easy to maintain the momentum for free trade because the losers will feel very angry, and they will protest, they will lobby their government and say, 'Please do something about it'," he said.

He added that as countries embarked on structural reform of their economies, they must also look at how to take care of their workers.

At the dialogue, Mr Heng also took questions on a range of topics including Singapore's development, artificial intelligence and the upcoming US-North Korea summit in Singapore.

Asked about the secret to Singapore's success, Mr Heng said that the country's first generation leaders focused on developing the economy and keeping Singapore open, instead of imposing tariffs to protect certain industries.

"Our founding fathers decided that we cannot protect industries, because if you protect industries, the businesses benefit but our workers suffer, our consumers suffer," he said.

He was also asked about Singapore's future plans to cooperate with China, after the success of the Suzhou Industrial Park, a government-to-government project of the two countries, located in Jiangsu province which has Nanjing as its capital.

Mr Heng said both countries could work together in helping Chinese companies internationalise and on the internationalisation of the yuan as well as on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Chinese President Xi Jinping had, in 2013, proposed the BRI to build infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports and industrial hubs along modern versions of the ancient land and sea trade routes linking China to Africa and Europe.

"I hope that with the BRI, China can also play a very active role in the building of infrastructure and connectivity in the region and whole of Asia," Mr Heng said.

Singapore-China ties: 40 years on, progressing with the times
The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2018

This is an excerpt of a speech by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at Nanjing University, China, on 4 June 2018

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up policy, and the 40th anniversary of Mr Deng Xiaoping's visit to Singapore. Mr Deng visited Singapore in November 1978 before China made a significant decision in December on reform and opening up. In 1976, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, visited China for the first time.

This exchange of visits laid the foundation for cooperation between both countries. Mr Deng was impressed by Singapore's development. He saw how an open economy had helped Singapore grow. Mr Lee told Mr Deng that whatever Singapore achieved, China could do better.

Since then, China has steadily opened up its economy and achieved remarkable progress. A significant step was when China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001. China's opening up to world trade was a master stroke in stimulating domestic reforms. China is also plugging into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is investing heavily in technologies.

In the next phase of China's growth, China is "reforming and opening up" even further. China is expanding and deepening external linkages with other countries with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It provides a path for shared development between China and the region. Singapore is an early supporter of the BRI. The BRI opens up new frontiers of connectivity and promotes new areas of cooperation, especially for countries along BRI to advance the lives of our people.

The first area is transport connectivity to promote flow of goods and services and connect people. There is also a significant demand for infrastructure in Asia. The Singapore-China (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative (CCI) is a priority demonstration project for the BRI, Western Region Development and Yangtze River Economic Belt strategies. The CCI-Southern Transport Corridor will enhance connectivity from western China to South-east Asia.

Further liberalisation of the China-Singapore Air Services Agreement will better connect the air networks of both countries with the world. China is Singapore's largest trading partner. Singapore is China's largest foreign investor. We look forward to concluding a major upgrade to the China-Singapore free trade agreement (FTA), implementing the Asean-China FTA upgrade and achieving a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement. These are positive steps towards improving trade connectivity, during a period when protectionism is rising in other parts of the world.

Second, we can strengthen financial connectivity to support trade and investments so that our countries can grow and prosper. China's renminbi internationalisation policy is a very significant step in China's development and in the global economy. Singapore has been a strong supporter. Singapore supports China's "going out" strategy, and can help more Chinese companies expand into the Asean region. Singapore and China are also working together in third countries along the Belt and Road.

Third, we can strengthen the flow of people to promote exchange of ideas and meet the evolving needs of our people.

The cooperation of our two countries reflects our longstanding and close friendship. Singapore is undergoing leadership renewal and transiting into "fourth-generation leadership". The younger leaders in Singapore will build on the strong foundation that past and current leaders have built with China over the years.

Former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli has described Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean as an old and good friend. It is our hope that as the younger leaders in Singapore step up to the helm, new friends will also become old friends and good friends.


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Xi Jinping have affirmed that Singapore and China shared a demonstrative, strategic and forward-looking relationship. They have aptly characterised our relations as an "all-round cooperative partnership progressing with the times". It is timely to explore how we can take our mutually beneficial cooperation to the next level.

This cooperation will be based on important leadership and governance principles.

First, governance and policies must change with the times and remain relevant. No policy is applicable to all contexts and all times. Our operating environments are always changing. People's aspirations evolve. There are three major shifts that many countries will have to prepare for: shift in global economic weight towards Asia; emergence of new technologies; and ageing populations.

These will interact in different ways, bring new challenges, but also new opportunities. Government policies must adapt to these changes to best serve our people's needs. Governments must be prepared to make bold changes, sometimes even against conventional ways. But, always in a well-thought-through manner, with a devotion to finding what works best for their countries.

Second, to formulate polices with depth, breadth and a long-term view, that are informed through citizen engagement. Good policies must be based on a good understanding of issues and their complex interconnections. This calls for us to mobilise the knowledge and energy of all our stakeholders. Good policies must also take into account the breadth of their potential impact and a long-term view. To achieve these, governments need to engage citizens actively, widely and in a multifaceted way. In this way, we better understand the needs and aspirations of citizens, and foster public consensus. Good policies must have good implementation.

Third, governments need to actively collaborate with and learn from other countries, and maintain good relations. In a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected, countries need to collaborate. No country has all the expertise it needs. Collaborations can achieve win-win outcomes.

To facilitate international collaboration, a stable and favourable global environment is key. Developments in or actions by one country can affect other countries. Singapore seeks to build good relations with other countries, and to be a credible and consistent partner, playing constructive roles in international affairs.

The three principles must be focused on one common vision: to build better lives for our people, united by shared values. Shared values engender trust and togetherness in a country. Leaders of a country need to live by these shared values and promote them throughout the society. This unwavering vision is at the heart of every generation of leaders in Singapore. I am sure this is the case in China too.

Since China's reform and opening up, Singapore and China have developed many areas of all-round cooperation. We are enhancing our cooperation further to meet evolving needs, including in the BRI. We have a long friendship that goes back many years, and we look forward to more win-win partnerships in future.

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