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Why It Matters

Bolstering Sino-S'pore ties

At a time when Sino-Singapore ties are undergoing increased scrutiny following a rough patch last year over the South China Sea and Taiwan, Singapore and China have been exploring new platforms for cultural engagement.

A memorandum of understanding between Beijing's Palace Museum and Singapore's National Heritage Board (NHB) was signed last Friday.

Under the pact, NHB and the Palace Museum will collaborate in five areas: exhibition and loan exchange, exchange of information relating to collections management and conservation, curatorial and conservation staff exchange, research and publication, and retail opportunities.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who was in Xi'an and Beijing last week to discuss areas for cultural, sports and youth cooperation, suggested that such collaboration would add "an important facet" to the existing relationship.

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Singapore and China have enjoyed close ties since the late 1970s, when Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping set China on the path of economic reform, with the Republic as an important role model.

Over the years, Singapore has helped China with the transfer of knowledge, expertise and experience. Areas of cooperation include the Suzhou Industrial Park, cultural exchanges and financial collaboration; both sides also set up seven economic and trade councils.

Singapore has trained about 50,000 Chinese officials and cadres. And since 2013, Singapore has become its largest foreign investor.

But as China rises to become a dominant power in the region, traditional platforms of collaboration - such as Singapore helping to train Chinese officials - may recede in importance. Increasingly, Singapore has much to learn from China in areas such as science and technology.

Greater cultural collaboration will offer more avenues to bolster ties as the longstanding relationship between the two countries continues to evolve.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2017, with the headline 'Bolstering Sino-S'pore ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe