President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday praised Singaporeans for their role in building bridges between their country and China.
"In an increasingly globalised world, many Singaporeans have ventured overseas to live, work and study... You play an important role in strengthening ties between Singapore and China with the bonds of friendship that you form here," he said at a reception for some 300 Singaporeans in Beijing.
Noting that there are about 20,000 Singaporeans working and living in China, many of them successful leaders in various sectors, Dr Tan urged them to continue forming relationships.
His words found resonance with Singaporean Cheng Yong Meng, 56, who has worked for 23 years in China. "Singaporeans are seen by the Chinese as honest and hard-working. We get things done," said Mr Cheng, deputy general manager of developer China World Trade Centre. "We're one of the countries they're most willing to work with and learn from."
Dr Tan also noted that since the two countries formalised diplomatic ties 25 years ago, bilateral trade has increased more than 20 times, with the city-state China's top foreign investor. He said these figures show the confidence the two countries have in each other's future and "reflect the ability of Singapore and Singaporeans to make an impact wherever we are, despite the small size of our country".
People-to-people exchanges were also evident during Dr Tan's visit to Chinese tech giant Huawei yesterday, where he met 11 Singaporean university students on a two-week stint in Beijing and Shenzhen, to learn about Huawei's operations and Chinese culture.
"It's an opportunity to work with one of the top tech companies, in one of the biggest markets in the world," said Singapore Management University student Lim Yi Sheng, 24, explaining his decision to join the programme.
Mr Lim was one of the Singaporean students who introduced Huawei's mobile phone devices to Dr Tan, during the latter's tour of Huawei's executive briefing centre on the outskirts of the capital.
Dr Tan, a former university physics lecturer and former chairman of the National Research Foundation, was also briefed by Huawei chairman Sun Yafang.
He was especially interested in technology that would allow remote monitoring and controlling of functions in a house.
Dr Tan was impressed by Huawei's investments in R&D to tap new growth areas.
"The company has presence in Singapore and I am confident that it can contribute to Singapore's growth in new areas such as the Smart Nation Initiative," he said.
On his first state visit to China as President, Dr Tan is set to meet China's top leaders today and will be hosted to a state banquet by President Xi Jinping.