'A successful China is good for Singapore and region'

Participants of the Future China Advanced Leaders Programme putting on a skit yesterday at a ceremony marking the end of their three-week course. Mr Chee Hong Tat, who spoke at the event, said that it is in Singapore's interest and the region's inter
Participants of the Future China Advanced Leaders Programme putting on a skit yesterday at a ceremony marking the end of their three-week course. Mr Chee Hong Tat, who spoke at the event, said that it is in Singapore's interest and the region's interest that China succeeds.ST PHOTO: CHONG ZI LIANG

S'pore, Beijing enjoy close relationship that cannot be taken for granted: Chee Hong Tat

The notion that Singapore should align itself more closely to China so that the latter would not invest in Singapore's competitors is a "simplistic and flawed" belief, as China's decisions are based on its national interests, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat said yesterday.

Concerns about Singapore's relations with China have led some people to suggest that Singapore should take China's side more often to lessen its investments in Singapore's neighbouring countries.

"This is a simplistic and flawed conclusion. The Chinese are investing in our region and beyond to enhance their connectivity and energy security. Their decisions are guided by their national interests," Mr Chee said.

"It is in our interest and in the region's interest that China succeeds," he told business leaders at a ceremony marking the end of a three-week management course.

The Future China Advanced Leaders Programme is organised by Business China and Nanyang Business School to give Singapore entrepreneurs and executives insights into the latest economic opportunities and developments in China.

This year's course had 22 participants. Since the programme began in 2012, 135 people have taken part.

Noting Singapore's close cooperation with China, Mr Chee said it is Singapore's "longstanding and consistent position" that a successful China is good for the region.

To be of value to China or any other major power, Singapore must continue to be a vibrant, successful city with a stable political leadership, said Mr Chee. It must also remain a trusted and credible country that upholds its commitments and adheres consistently to international laws, he said.

"There may be occasional differences over how our two countries view certain issues. This is only natural, even between close friends and neighbours," he added.

He noted how from time to time, some parties exaggerate negative news on Singapore-China relations. "We should not be rattled by these tactics, and should instead focus on further strengthening our bilateral ties with China at different levels and in different provinces," he said.

Even when both sides enjoy a close relationship, it cannot be taken for granted and constant work is needed to strengthen the close cooperation, he added.

"Speaking the same language, sharing the same cultural traditions and having ancestors who came from the same village several generations ago can be an advantage, but they are not going to get us very far if that is all we have to offer."

To be of value to China or any other major power, Singapore must continue to be a vibrant, successful city with a stable political leadership, said Mr Chee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health.

It must also remain a trusted and credible country that upholds its commitments and adheres consistently to international laws, he said.

A key priority is to press on with transforming the economy, helping companies be more competitive globally, creating good jobs and staying a united, cohesive society.

Last month, the programme's 22 participants visited Urumqi and Horgos in China, as well as Almaty in Kazakhstan, to acquaint themselves with opportunities China's One Belt, One Road initiative will generate. Mr Chee and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon led the group on the visit. Said Mr Chee: While it is not without its challenges, China's Belt and Road initiative has the potential to bring about many opportunities... and provide areas of collaboration that allow everyone to grow and prosper together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline ''A successful China is good for Singapore and region''. Print Edition | Subscribe