SINGAPORE - What Singapore and China share is a unique bilateral relationship built on wide-ranging cooperation that evolves with the times according to changing developmental priorities and capabilities, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam at a state banquet with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday (Nov 6) evening.
When Singapore established diplomatic relations with China in 1990, nobody could have predicted that the friendship and cooperation between the two countries would have grown so rapidly and in such a broad and deep manner, Dr Tan added, citing how nobody expected Singapore would survive, much less succeed, when it became independent in 1965.
"This can be attributed to the historical and cultural linkages between our two peoples, including our pioneer generation of leaders," said Dr Tan, adding that a demonstration of political mutual trust is reflected by Mr Lee Kuan Yew's visit to China in 1976 and Mr Deng Xiaoping's visit to Singapore in 1978, even before both had established diplomatic relations.
"To this day, mutual respect and political trust between our two countries remain high, and high-level exchanges continue to be frequent."
Dr Tan made the remarks as he and Mr Xi led a toast at the banquet held at the Istana to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations.
He spoke about China's rapid development over the past three decades.
"Today, Your Excellency is leading the Chinese people into a new era of progress and prosperity," he said. "This is a remarkable endeavour and I am confident that China will continue to succeed under your leadership."
He also pointed out how Singapore has been able to participate in modest ways in China's modern economic development through government-led projects like the Suzhou Industrial Park.
"Over the years, bilateral cooperation has moved beyond the traditional areas of trade and commerce to new areas such as social governance, human resource cooperation, sustainable development, financial cooperation and food safety," added Dr Tan.
Both sides have agreed to launch a third government-to-government project in China's western region.
Dr Tan said Singapore's confidence in China's future is best reflected in the continuous flow of investments from the Republic into China.
He pointed out that Singapore has been China's largest foreign investor for the last two years, while China has been Singapore's largest trading partner since 2013.
Also, Singapore was the first country in Asia to launch negotiations with China for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in January 2009, and has boosted bilateral trade and investments by over 160 per cent and 162 per cent respectively.
Dr Tan said it is fitting that as both countries commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations, they have agreed to launch a substantive upgrade of the China-Singapore FTA to "prepare for the next stage of our economic cooperation".
He said the China-Singapore FTA upgrade will also serve as a pathfinder for both countries' participation in regional economic frameworks such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement as well as the Asean-China FTA upgrade.
Said Dr Tan: "I am confident that together we can bring our relationship to even greater heights by continuing our collaboration in a pragmatic, constructive and innovative way for the mutual benefit of both our countries and peoples."