Singapore-China ties 'are broad and substantial'

Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting for bilateral talks at the West Lake State Guesthouse in Hangzhou on Sept 2, 2016.
Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting for bilateral talks at the West Lake State Guesthouse in Hangzhou on Sept 2, 2016. PHOTO: ZAOBAO

Singapore has a very broad and substantial relationship with China that cuts across businesses, people and both governments, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

These ties continue, and a Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation - the highest-level forum between Singapore and China - will meet next month, he added yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who co-chairs the council with Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, will travel to Chongqing for the meeting, Mr Lee said.

Singapore is embarking on its third government-to-government project with China in Chongqing, after those in Tianjin and Suzhou, and there are business projects all over the country, he noted.

Mr Lee was replying to a question on Singapore's ties with China at a dialogue organised by the EDB Society and The Straits Times. Businessmen are concerned ties are under strain, after incidents such as Hong Kong Customs' seizure of nine Singapore Armed Forces armoured vehicles.

DIFFERENCES MUST BE MANAGED

In relations between countries, you must always expect from time to time differences of views, otherwise it would be unnatural. And we must be able to manage them without affecting the overall relationship.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG

 
 
 
 

Mr Lee noted that the Singapore Government has reiterated the multifaceted ties between both countries, most recently at the latest Parliament sitting last week.

Singapore welcomes China's engagement in the region and its growing influence, he said.

But he acknowledged that there are certain issues that have to be managed, such as the South China Sea, where China has overlapping territorial claims with four Asean members: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Singapore is currently chairing Asean-China engagement and dialogue relations, and helping work towards an Asean-China code of conduct on the South China Sea.

"We don't see completely eye to eye, but neither are we opposed to each other. These are things which we have to deal with from time to time, and which we have to take in our stride," he said.

"In relations between countries, you must always expect from time to time differences of views, otherwise it would be unnatural. And we must be able to manage them without affecting the overall relationship," he added. The Government's concern is to maintain a relationship that is positive, sustainable and protects national interests in the long term - with China and with others, he said.

Mr Lee noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping had, in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said "countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are all equal members of the international community" that are "entitled to participate in decision-making, enjoy rights and fulfil obligations on an equal basis".

Mr Lee said: "That is a good basis, especially for small countries."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore-China ties 'are broad and substantial''. Print Edition | Subscribe