Don't lose sight of the big picture, says Lee Boon Yang on China-Singapore relationship

 Lee Boon Yang speaks during a ground-breaking ceremony by Keppel Infrastructure and PUB for Singapore's first dual-mode desalination plant.
Lee Boon Yang speaks during a ground-breaking ceremony by Keppel Infrastructure and PUB for Singapore's first dual-mode desalination plant.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore and China have forged a strong and mutually beneficial relationship over the years, but even the best of friends do not always see eye to eye on every issue, said Singapore Press Holdings chairman Lee Boon Yang on Wednesday (July 26).

When the two countries disagree, leaders and thought leaders from both sides have to work harder to achieve a better understanding of each other's position, he said at the inaugural Lianhe Zaobao Singapore-China forum.

"Even if we cannot achieve a full consensus or reach a resolution on a specific issue, we must not lose sight of the big picture. Our common interests and mutual benefits clearly outweigh such occasional differences," said Dr Lee in a speech.

"It would be a pity if we let our differences dominate the conversation... We should not allow negativity to set in. We should focus on the much more significant mutual benefits that can be derived from these bilateral relations," he added.

At the closed-door forum, organised by SPH's Chinese daily broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao, about 35 academics, diplomats and international relations watchers discussed how to strengthen Sino-Singapore ties.

In his speech, Dr Lee traced the cultural and diplomatic ties between Singapore and China.

He also highlighted how the two governments have cooperated on three mega projects: the Suzhou Industrial Park, the Tianjin Eco-City and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.

These projects show how Singapore and China's relationship has evolved but stayed mutually beneficial, even as China takes giant steps in economic and technological development, said Dr Lee.

Going forward, both countries can focus on economic cooperation and strengthening the ties between their people, he said.

For instance, as Singapore works with China to implement its Belt and Road initiative, economic and financial ties between both countries will grow, said Dr Lee.

Workers, consumers and businesses of both countries stand to benefit from these closer ties, he added.

Organising cultural activities is another way to promote deeper understanding and forge cultural connections between Chinese and Singaporean people.

Dr Lee cited the inaugural Singapore-China Youth Arts Festival, in which youth performing groups from both countries took to the stage for three weekends this month.

This festival was jointly organised by SPH's Chinese language student paper, the China Cultural Centre and China Children's Art Theatre.

The two countries can also work together in the area of regional cooperation. Next year is a good opportunity for both countries to bring Asean and China closer, as Singapore will be both the country coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations and the Asean chair, Dr Lee noted.

"Such regional cooperation will bring about stability, which is critical for the continued development and progress of Asean members and China," he added.

"Our common interests and mutual benefits in these areas far outweigh any differences and they will ensure that our relationship can withstand the test of time," said Dr Lee.