At a time when Sino-Singapore relations are undergoing intense scrutiny, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Grace Fu said enhancing cultural ties between the two countries will offer a different platform for engagement and add "an important facet" to the bilateral relationship.
Ms Fu was speaking to the Singapore media in Beijing yesterday, the last day of her trip to China to discuss areas for cultural, sports and youth cooperation.
Asked what effect the trip could have on ties with China, she said: "It adds an important facet to very wide-ranging collaborations that we have with China. We are in a special position of having wide-ranging strategic relations that evolve with time. Culture is an important part: It allows us to have a deeper understanding of each other. Also, it allows us to have... a different platform for engaging each other."
Ms Fu's trip to China comes in the wake of a cooling of ties last year over issues such as the South China Sea, even as leaders on both sides stress that the relationship is back on track.
The minister's trip began in Xi'an on Monday. There, she met Mr Jiang Feng, Vice-Governor of Shaanxi, and Mr Shangguan Ji Qing, Mayor of Xi'an. She also visited cultural institutions, such as the Shaanxi Institute of Preservation of Cultural Heritage, which is discussing signing a memorandum of understanding with the National Heritage Board.
Yesterday, she met Minister of Culture Luo Shugang "to see how we can broaden and deepen collaboration across wide-ranging art forms as well as institutions".
The officials were warm and had "positive responses to Singapore", said Ms Fu, who last visited Beijing in February.
She was asked how cultural collaboration might foster closer ties on a person-to-person level, and allow citizens - who might not know much about art - to understand people from the other country better.
She replied that cultural exchanges, and the new Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, could serve as avenues for Singaporeans to better appreciate China's art and culture. Community art also plays a role, she said, and is an area where both countries are thinking of connecting culture and heritage to the ground.
She said Singapore could learn from China how to be better at artefact conservation. For instance, while visiting the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, she gained an insight into the heightened attention the Chinese are paying to conserving their artefacts by investing in technology.
"They are developing know-how on lots of materials - from stones, to bronze, to clay, much wider than what we have in Singapore."
Ms Fu declined to comment when asked about the public dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road house, which is thought to have historical and heritage significance.
Under the Preservation of Monuments Act, the National Heritage Board can ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth to gazette the more than 100-year-old bungalow if it fulfils criteria such as having historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural, artistic or symbolic significance, and being of national importance.
Singapore signs agreement with China’s Palace Museum. http://str.sg/4bKp