Belt and Road Initiative a focal point for Singapore's ties with China

File photo showing Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Sept 20, 2017. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

BEIJING • China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a mega project to revive ancient land and sea trade routes and link the country to Europe, Africa and Asia, will be a focal point in its relationship with Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

This was agreed on by both countries, he told the Communist Party's official People's Daily newspaper in an interview published today.

"The (BRI) will benefit many countries that need more and better infrastructure. It is also compatible with keeping the regional architecture and international system open and inclusive," Mr Lee added.

He also noted that Singapore is an "early and strong supporter" of the BRI.

The initiative, mooted by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to build infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports and industrial hubs to connect about 65 countries.

Mr Lee said Singapore and China have identified four major areas of cooperation: infrastructure connectivity, financial connectivity, joint collaboration to help other BRI countries, and offer of services to resolve cross-border commercial disputes.

Singapore is well placed to support the BRI, he added, citing its position as a global financial centre and one of the largest offshore yuan centres in the world.

Also, many Chinese companies use Singapore as a base of operations in the region.

Mr Lee also highlighted the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, a joint government project that links China's western region to the sea by rail.

It will also create a direct connection between the overland Silk Road economic belt and the 21st-century maritime Silk Road, he added, referring to the two trade routes under the BRI.

Asked for his views on Singapore-China ties this year, Mr Lee said relations were strong, with foundations that go back long before diplomatic ties were established in 1990.

He agreed with President Xi that both countries have common interests in many areas, and said that despite being different in size, population and geography, they have worked together on a wide range of issues.

"Singapore will continue to support China's constructive participation in the regional architecture as well as the international system."

On Asean-China ties, Mr Lee said that as Asean chair, Singapore will help set up an Asean Smart Cities Network. China has the largest number of smart cities in the world, he noted, adding: "We can learn much from China's experience."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 08, 2018, with the headline Belt and Road Initiative a focal point for Singapore's ties with China. Subscribe