Third Singapore-China joint project to be based in Chongqing

Chinese President Xi Jinping, accompanied by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, inspects the guard-of-honour during the welcome ceremony at the Istana, Nov 6, 2015.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, accompanied by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, inspects the guard-of-honour during the welcome ceremony at the Istana, Nov 6, 2015.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Chinese President Xi Jinping giving a speech at the state banquet held in his honour at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015.
Chinese President Xi Jinping giving a speech at the state banquet held in his honour at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015.ST PHOTO: KOR KIAN BENG

SINGAPORE - The third Singapore-China government-led project will be based in Chongqing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a state banquet at the Istana on Friday (Nov 6).

"During my visit, the two sides will officially launch the third project based in Chongqing," Mr Xi said.

The bilateral project will be on the theme of "modern connectivity and modern services", and could help lower the cost of doing business in China's western region.

Singapore and China will sign an agreement on Saturday (Nov 7) to kickstart the project, which is a highlight of Mr Xi's two-day state visit to Singapore.

The other two cities in contention for the project in western China were Chengdu and Xi'an.

A city of 30 million, Chongqing is one of four municipalities under the direct control of China's central government.

In proposals seen earlier this year, the south-western city has set aside an area of 20 sq km for the collaboration, with the Longsheng district of about 10 sq km designated the core area.

The initiatives planned for the project include an integrated logistics centre comprising an aviation and port logistics hub; a China-Singapore modern services demonstration zone where Singapore firms can provide legal and accounting services among others; and a smart city featuring a special administrative zone for cloud computing and big data sectors.

Chinese Ambassador to Singapore Chen Xiaodong had said earlier that the project would have a positive effect on the Chinese government's plan to develop its vast western region.

More exciting chapters in Sino-Singapore ties: Xi

Mr Xi, who arrived on Friday evening for his first state visit to Singapore, said that the two existing government-to-government projects are progressing well.

The Chongqing project follows in the footsteps of the 1994 Suzhou Industrial Park and the 2008 Tianjin Eco-City.

In his Mandarin speech at the state banquet, he congratulated Singapore on the nation's 50th birthday, and said bilateral ties have reached a "new historical point".

"We will write more new and exciting chapters in Sino-Singapore relations," he told the Chinese and Singapore officials and guests attending the banquet.

At the banquet, Mr Xi and President Tony Tan Keng Yam led a toast to 25 years of formal diplomatic relations.


Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam leading a toast at the state banquet in the Istana on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG


Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the state banquet held in his honour at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG


Guests mingling in the banquet room at the Istana during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: KOR KIAN BENG

Cooperation beyond traditional areas: Tony Tan 

Speaking before Mr Xi, Dr Tan said what both countries share is a unique bilateral relationship built on wide-ranging cooperation that evolves with the times.

He said: "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."

He also 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."

In a meeting before the banquet, the two leaders affirmed the close, substantive and multi-faceted relations between the two sides.

They agreed to launch negotiations on the upgrade of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and to conclude the negotiations by 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.


Chinese President Xi Jinping (left, centre) and the delegation from China meeting with Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam (right, centre) and the Singapore delegation, at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG


Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam admiring the bone china tea and coffee set, which is designed with Great Wall and Merlion patterns, that was presented to him by Chinese President Xi Jinping. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG


Chinese President Xi Jinping looking at a drawing of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was presented to him by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam. The drawing was made by Pathlight student Glenn Phua (centre, partially hidden). ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

New strategic framework for bilateral ties

They also agreed to establish a new strategic framework aimed at deepening ties and cooperation.

More details of the new framework - called "all-round cooperative partnership progressing with the times" - are expected to be announced soon. It is believed to be the first of its kind among the 50-plus partnerships of various titles China has with other states.

Both leaders also discussed strengthening cooperation in areas such as finance, culture, social governance, education, environmental protection, and people-to-people relations.

Earlier on Friday evening, Mr Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan arrived at Singapore from Vietnam where the Chinese leader concluded a two-day trip.

They were welcomed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and his wife at the VIP Complex at Changi Airport.

From the airport, they headed to the Istana for an official welcome ceremony.


Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan wave after disembarking from their plane at Changi Airport, on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN


Chinese President Xi Jinping walking down the red carpet with Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, while Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan is accompanied by Mrs Heng at Changi Airport, on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN


An Audi sedan bearing the state flags of China and Singapore, at Changi Airport on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN


An airport staff memeber doing a last-minute brushing of the red carpet, just before the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Changi Airport on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Welcome ceremony at the Istana

Mr Xi was welcomed by a guard of honour, and he stood at attention with Dr Tan in front of the Istana as Singapore's national anthem was played.

After inspecting the guard of honour, Mr Xi paid a courtesy call on Dr Tan, while Mrs Mary Tan separately hosted Madam Peng to tea.

Mr Xi's trip is part of celebrations this year by both sides to mark close bilateral ties and cooperation since diplomatic relations were formalised on Oct 3, 1990. Dr Tan visited Beijing and Tianjin in July.

The state banquet, featuring local favourites such as chilli crab and bak kut teh, was held in honour of Mr Xi, Madam Peng and their delegation. Chinese officials in the delegation include policy research head Wang Huning, general office head Li Zhanshu and State Councillor Yang Jiechi, and Chongqing mayor Huang Qifan.

On Saturday, Singapore and China will sign agreements related to the Chongqing project, as well as deals in areas such as education, urban management and collaboration between the two Customs.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Xi will both witness the signing ceremony.

Mr Xi and his wife will also visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens where an orchid hybrid "Papilionanda" will be named in their honour. PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching will host them to a private lunch.

During his visit, Mr Xi will deliver the 36th Singapore Lecture at the National University of Singapore.

Along with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Mr Xi will also officially open the China Cultural Centre located in Queen Street on Saturday morning.

The two leaders had attended its ground-breaking ceremony in 2010 when Mr Xi visited Singapore as vice-president to mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, together with Singapore President Tony Tan, inspecting the guard of honour at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG


Chinese President Xi Jinping (second from left) and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan (left) posing for a picture with Singapore President Tony Tan (second from left) and his wife Mary, at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG


Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan called on Singapore President Tony Tan and his wife Mary at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG