Chinese President Xi Jinping proposes 3 ways to take ties with Singapore to new level

PM Lee and Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) at their meeting in Beijing yesterday. Also present were Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan (left) and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Communication
PM Lee and Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) at their meeting in Beijing yesterday. Also present were Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan (left) and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information and Education Sim Ann (third from left). -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Let's open up new dimensions for the future, Chinese President tells PM Lee

China's top leader Xi Jinping, declaring ties with Singapore to be "in excellent shape", proposed three new ways to take bilateral relations to a new high at his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

One of the ways would be to "fully utilise" the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), a top bilateral body overseeing political ties and collaboration between the two countries.

China recently appointed its seventh-ranked leader Zhang Gaoli to the JCBC, which he co-chairs with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

The move marked the first time that a member of China's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, was named to the JCBC. The previous Chinese co-chairs were ranked lower than Mr Zhang.

PM Lee told the Singapore media: "Both of us are taking it very seriously and I think the JCBC has a clear mandate to work not just on existing areas but also new areas of cooperation."

President Xi gave two other suggestions on how bilateral relations could be improved - first by replicating the success of Sino-Singapore projects like the Suzhou Industrial Park elsewhere in China, and second, by broadening mutual cooperation in new areas such as environmental sustainability.

"China-Singapore relations have been in excellent shape," Mr Xi, who took office in March this year, told Mr Lee at their meeting yesterday at the Great Hall of the People.

The Chinese leader added: "I believe that our two sides should continue to work together to build on our past successes and open up new dimensions for the future.

"We need to further deepen political trust, enhance pragmatic cooperation and raise our bilateral relationship to a higher level, given the new historical starting point."

Mr Lee also held talks with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang yesterday. Prior to their meeting, Mr Lee was given an official welcome ceremony that included a 19-gun salute.

Premier Li noted that the bilateral relationship faces "new opportunities for further growth", and stressed the importance of working together to "further strengthen the solid political foundation".

During their meeting, the two prime ministers also discussed global economic concerns, such as the impact of a possible tapering of the United States' quantitative easing policy as well as territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Mr Lee said his talk with Mr Li was "very substantive", adding that the Chinese Premier had accepted an invitation to visit Singapore to deliver a lecture on how China viewed the world and its relations with Asean.

After his meetings in Beijing, Mr Lee left for a three-day visit to the Xinjiang autonomous region in western China.

On Friday, he will visit the north-eastern city of Shenyang in Liaoning province.

The visits to Xinjiang and Liaoning are part of efforts to explore new opportunities in China's less-developed provinces.

"As President Xi said, our bilateral relations are in very good shape," said Mr Lee.

"We have growing, wide-ranging and deep cooperation, both at the national levels and also the provincial levels in many different provinces."

kianbeng@sph.com.sg