DPM Tharman meets top Chinese leader Zhang Gaoli

DEPUTY Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam welcomed the appointment of Chinese executive vice premier Zhang Gaoli's appointment to helm a top-level council overseeing bilateral relations.

Mr Zhang - a member of China's apex ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee - has been named co-chairman of the Singapore-China Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC). It provides a platform for top leaders from both sides to meet annually and set the agenda for further cooperation between the two countries.

Mr Tharman, who met with the Chinese leader on the first day of his week-long trip to Beijing and Shanghai, discussed the "considerable potential in new areas of collaboration", Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.

These areas include finance, urban development and social management.

Mr Zhang said he was "happy to undertake this appointment".

He "looked forward to visiting Singapore soon to co-chair these meetings with DPM Teo Chee Hean, and...bring bilateral relations to new heights", MFA added.

The Chinese leader has developed a long-standing relationship with Singapore over more than a decade, most notably when he served as party chief of the southern metropolis of Shenzhen from 1997 to 2001, as well as during the port city of Tianjin over the five years from 2007.

It was during his tenure in Tianjin that the Eco-City - one of two flagship bilateral projects - broke ground.

Both leaders affirmed the progress made by the Eco-City and the Suzhou Industrial Park as well as other bilateral projects.

After the meeting, Mr Tharman, who is also chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), officiated the opening of MAS' representative office in Beijing - its third overseas outfit after New York and London.