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."
Mr Lee's passing marks the end of an era but it does not mean the end of strong China-Singapore relations.
PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM, responding to a question from a student
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.