TIANJIN - The goal of the Tianjin Eco-city project, which was launched 10 years ago, was to replicate its model of sustainable development in other cities in China and beyond, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday (Sept 28).
Expanding the Eco-city within Tianjin was a "natural way to progress," he told Singapore reporters after visiting the Eco-city.
"All of this will mean a lot more work for officials on both sides, but I think it will add to the very good cooperation that we already have with China and the Tianjin government," he said.
The Tianjin Eco-city, one of three government-to-government projects between Singapore and China, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday (Sept 28).
"We will first need to consolidate the lessons that we have learnt from the Eco-city, and study what experiences can be replicated and where they can be replicated," said Mr Wong.
At the moment, the 30 square kilometre Eco-city is only about one-third built up.
In terms of replicating its developmental experience, one possible starting point is to expand the Eco-city southward to meet the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, a national level development zone.
This combined area would form the core of the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA), a district with an area three times the size of Singapore.
Replicating the Eco-city's experiences would be one of three future tasks for the project moving forward, Mr Wong told reporters.
The other two tasks would be completing the rest of the Eco-city, and raising the amount of smart applications such as for the energy grid within the city.
Mr Wong's comments come just a week after both Singapore and China signed a deal, during a Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting in Singapore, to work together to replicate the Tianjin Eco-city's development experience in Chinese cities as well as in other Belt and Road regions. China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is to build infrastructure in countries along land and sea trade routes linking Asia to Europe and Africa.
Mr Wong on Friday also said that any replication would not just cover "green buildings", but include other areas such as how the wastewater pond and saline land of the Eco-city were rehabilitated, and also the training of officials and city planners.
"Singapore started on the path of sustainable development very early in our development experience because of our circumstances. We are just one very small island one third of the size of the (TBNA), and we cannot afford to spoil this small little island which is also our home," Mr Wong said earlier in the day when he delivered the opening address at the two-day China-Singapore International Green Building Conference at the Eco-city.
Mr Wong is in China for a three-day working visit to attend the anniversary celebrations of the Eco-city. He is accompanied by a delegation comprising of businessmen and government officials.
Mr Mah Bow Tan, who was National Development Minister when the Eco-city project was launched in 2008, is among those in the delegation.
On Friday, he told reporters that the project was launched on a barren plot of land with "not a single blade of grass." Now it is a leafy township of over 100,000 people with close to 7,000 registered companies.
Mr Mah, who retired from politics in 2015 and is now a businessman, hailed the transformation as "unbelievable".
Mr Mah said Singapore learnt about the Chinese ability to deliver results from the project, noting that within a year of its launch grass was growing on the land.
"It's quite amazing, when they say they will do it, they will do it," he said.
On Friday (Sept 28), Mr Wong also met China's vice minister of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development Ms Huang Yan, and TBNA party chief Zhang Yuzhuo, and they endorsed a new key performance indicator (KPI) framework to guide future development of the Eco-city .
Some of the KPIs included achieving 100 per cent wastewater reuse by 2020, and making sure all homes were within a five minute walk to parks and green spaces by 2035.
Mr Wong on Friday also toured the TBNA, visiting the Dongjiang Bonded Port, located in a free trade area, as well as a temperature-controlled logistics facility. Later, he watched a friendly video game match between teams from Singapore and China at the an e-sports centre, and visited the soon-to-opened China-Singapore Friendship Library.
In the evening he attended a commemorative dinner for the Eco-city's 10th anniversary.
Mr Wong told reporters that the Eco-city had been a good platform to facilitate bilateral cooperation.
"I believe that this platform remains very relevant. For 10 years it has proven very useful for both sides, it has led to many mutually beneficial outcomes... and I believe that we can keep this platform a useful one, a relevant one for both countries," he said.
Mr Wong will leave China on Saturday (Sept 29).