Amid concerns over China's slowing economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong struck a bullish note over the Asian giant's growth prospects.
"While China's economy will experience ups and downs, I expect China to grow strongly over the next decade and beyond as it implements needed economic and social reforms," he said at the opening ceremony of the 11th annual China-Asean Expo in Nanning yesterday.
"This can only be positive for our region, because it will create more opportunities for win-win cooperation and greater prosperity for all."
He noted that while the global economy has not been in robust condition for some time, China's dynamism and the regional integration between Asean and China has made Asia "a resilient engine of growth".
Welcoming China's initiatives to bring the 10-member grouping closer, like its proposed revival of the ancient "Maritime Silk Road" that winds through the South China Sea, Mr Lee expressed hope that the momentum on regional integration is not disrupted by simmering tensions over territorial disputes in those waters.
"We should keep difficult issues in perspective, and not let disputes over-shadow the positives of Asean-China cooperation," he said.
He also played down competition between China and the United States for influence in the region, noting that the Asean-China relationship must be seen in the context of the growing interdependence and integration in the Asia Pacific as a whole.
Today, much of Asean-China trade is in intermediate goods, which go into final products that are exported to third markets like the US and Europe. So, just as Asean-China trade grows, so does Trans-Pacific trade, he said.
Singapore is the country of honour at this year's China-Asean Expo. Besides delivering the keynote speech at the opening ceremony, Mr Lee will also hold a roundtable dialogue with Chinese businessmen in Nanning today.