Third project with China to be on connectivity and modern services if it happens: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shake hands with China’s Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli on 15 Sept 2014. If Singapore embarks on a third government-to-government project with China, it will be in the area of connectivity and modern services
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shake hands with China’s Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli on 15 Sept 2014. If Singapore embarks on a third government-to-government project with China, it will be in the area of connectivity and modern services, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday. -- ST PHOTO: ZAOBAO

IF Singapore embarks on a third government-to-government project with China, it will be in the area of connectivity and modern services, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday.

Speaking to Singapore reporters at the end of a week-long trip to southern China, Mr Lee said given the vast size of China's western region - the proposed project site - it makes sense to have a project to link up this region in the areas of logistics, financial services, telecommunications and aviation.

But Mr Lee made clear that the Singapore government has not decided whether to commit to a third government-to-government project that would stretch its resources considerably.

Singapore currently has two such projects with China - the Suzhou Industrial Park, which broke ground in 1994, and the Tianjin Eco-city in 2008.

Both involved not just commercial objectives but also policy ones, which Mr Lee defined as something beyond the commercial viability of a project.

"What are the new systems you want to try out? What are the  new initiatives you want to launch? What examples do you want to prove so that other parts of the country can pick up useful ideas and implement them?" he said.

The Singapore government will proceed with the third project only if it is commercially viable and breaks new ground like the current projects, he added.

In the interview, Mr Lee also addressed the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The United States is building an international coalition for military action against the militant group, which Mr Lee said also has influence in the South-east Asian region. 

But the Singapore government has not decided on how to support the American effort, he said, noting that the situation itself has little clarity.  

"How the Americans are going to pursue this and what they're going to do, they haven't quite decided yet. They're not going to put troops on the ground. It's not one of those situations where you can say 'those are the bad guys, let's knock them out'.

"In the Middle East, things are never so simple and you can't come riding in on a white horse, knock out the bad guys and tomorrow, peace breaks out. It's a very complicated situation," Mr Lee said.

In July, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean disclosed in Parliament that several Singaporeans are among 12,000 foreigners taking part in the armed conflict in Syria, including a couple of parents who had taken along their children.

DPM Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs, warned that such fighters could return proficient in terrorist skills and pose a security threat.

rchang@sph.com.sg