The large delegation led by Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to Beijing for an annual high-level bilateral meeting shows Sino-Singapore ties are on the mend after the frictions of last year, say several Chinese newspapers and websites.
The official China Daily said in an editorial yesterday that "China, Singapore signal ties are on the up again". The meeting of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on Monday "signalled that bilateral ties have returned to normal", it added.
However, the English-language daily cautioned that "for bilateral ties to steer clear of unnecessary disruptions in the future, mutual respect for each other's core interests and accommodation to each other's major concerns are the key".
Last September, there was an exchange of letters between Singa- pore's Ambassador to China, Mr Stanley Loh, and Mr Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, after the Chinese newspaper published a report criticising Singapore's diplomats for raising the South China Sea issue at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Venezuela.
Two months later, nine Singapore Armed Forces armoured vehicles were seized by Hong Kong Customs when the container ship carrying them transited in the Chinese special administrative region. The Terrex infantry carriers were returning to Singapore from Taiwan after a military exercise.
Reference News, published by Xinhua news agency, ran a report on Monday analysing the significance of the JCBC meeting and what it means for bilateral ties.
Started in 2004, the JCBC serves as a high-level platform to discuss ways to deepen and broaden Singapore-China cooperation.
Mr Teo and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli chaired the 13th JCBC session on Monday.
The Reference News noted that Mr Teo was leading a delegation that included seven Cabinet ministers and that there were three other meetings taking place.
These had to do with the 18th China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Joint Steering Council (JSC), the 9th Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city JSC as well as the inaugural Chongqing Connectivity Initiative JSC.
The paper observed that Sino-Singapore ties look to have recovered from a trough last year. "Singapore seems to finally realise the stakes involved. China has always emphasised meeting the other party halfway, but this depends on Singapore's choice and actions," it said.
The Paper news portal quoted an analyst as saying the visit shows that Singapore hopes to deepen its relations with China.
Mr Teo's remarks on Singapore's "one China" policy in his interview with Xinhua is a response to the Terrex incident, said Dr Huang Rihan of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing-based Chinese global think-tank.
"From now on, Sino-Singapore ties will improve," he told the Shanghai-based news website.
In a report on the JCBC, the China Daily quoted South-east Asia expert Xu Liping as saying China and Singapore are adjusting their relationship to focus on cooperation, as their development strategies are complementary.
"Steady cooperation... will depend on whether both sides respect the core interests of the other side," said Dr Xu of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.