Common interest between Singapore and China much greater than occasional differences, says DPM Teo Chee Hean

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean meets Mr Zhao Leji, head of the Organisation Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), at the Great Hall of the People on Feb 26, 2017.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean meets Mr Zhao Leji, head of the Organisation Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), at the Great Hall of the People on Feb 26, 2017.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (fourth from left), with Singapore's ambassador to China Stanley Loh (right) and (from left) Ministers Ong Ye Kung, Grace Fu, Lim Hng Kiang, Vivian Balakrishnan, Chan Chun Sing and Josephine Teo, met Singaporeans a
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (fourth from left), with Singapore's ambassador to China Stanley Loh (right) and (from left) Ministers Ong Ye Kung, Grace Fu, Lim Hng Kiang, Vivian Balakrishnan, Chan Chun Sing and Josephine Teo, met Singaporeans at a dialogue on Sunday (Feb 26) as part of the 15th anniversary celebration of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Beijing.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

BEIJING - Singapore and China have a broad and long-standing relationship, and their common interest in building a peaceful region is much greater than their occasional differences of views, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

"We share similar views on most issues, and have worked well together to advance these common interests," he told Chinese news agency Xinhua in an e-mail interview ahead of his visit to Beijing that started on Sunday (Feb 26).

"But even among close neighbours and friends, there may be different perspectives on some issues, given that countries have different size, history, vulnerabilities, and geographical location," he added.

He was replying to a question on recent "frictions" in Sino-Singapore relations at the government and people-to-people level. He was also asked how the two sides could work together to enhance mutual trust.

"Singapore will continue to be a strong supporter of China's peaceful development and constructive engagement in the region," Mr Teo said.

Last September, there was an exchange of letters between Singapore's ambassador to China, Mr Stanley Loh, and Mr Hu Xijin, the editor of the Chinese newspaper Global Times, after the latter published a scathing report criticising Singapore's diplomats for raising the South China Sea issue at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Venezuela. Mr Loh had said the actions and words attributed to Singapore in the report were "false and unfounded".

Last November, Hong Kong Customs detained nine armoured vehicles of the Singapore Armed Forces onboard a container ship transiting there. They were bound for Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan.

In referring to progress in the bilateral relationship, Mr Teo also said that Singapore has consistently abided by its "one China" policy.

On Singapore's role as country coordinator for Asean-China cooperation, he said that the Republic will do its best to strengthen and deepen cooperation between the two sides.

However, he also noted that it was not easy to reach a consensus on every issue among the 10 members of Asean and China.

"What is important is to maintain close communication so that we can expand on our common interests and reduce differences," he added.

Mr Teo was also asked about Singapore's role in China's initiative of a modern-day maritime Silk Road to economically link countries along the sea route from China to South-east Asia to the Middle East.

He said Singapore - as a key hub for trade, infrastructure financing and one of the largest offshore Renminbi centres - was well-placed to support the growing number of Chinese companies venturing into markets along the Belt and Road, in reference also to the land route from China to the West.

"There are many opportunities for Singapore and Chinese companies to work together on the "Belt and Road" projects in areas such as transport and logistics, mixed-use park developments, construction materials and financing," he said.

Mr Teo is in Beijing for the 13th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), a high-level platform for deepening and broadening ties between the two sides that he co-chairs with Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

The meeting takes place on Feb 27 as well as those for the steering councils of the three government-to-government projects, the Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco-city and Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.