NANJING - The Singapore-Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island (SNEHTI) lies just a short drive over a bridge spanning the Yangtze River, but Singaporeans making the journey might do a double take.
Greeting visitors arriving by car from the main Nanjing city are three replicas of the supertrees at Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, the first sign of the Republic's deep involvement in the 15.21 sqkm island.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is on a working visit to China, visited the special development zone on Saturday (June 2), a collaborative project between Singapore property group Yanlord Land, Sembcorp Development and the Nanjing government. He was briefed on developments, before going on a tour of the island.
The SNEHTI project, which began in 2009, is a provincial-level development zone supported by the Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council, a bilateral platform between the two countries that Mr Heng co-chairs. Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province.
Construction is underway at the SNEHTI to develop a smart, green and ecologically-friendly city, with plans to make it a hub for clean technologies and artificial intelligence (AI).
On Friday (June 1), the SNEHTI hosted the first Sino-Singapore AI Forum, which Mr Heng also attended.
The SNEHTI's developers say they want to tap on Singapore's development experience, and this is obvious on the island.
Tree-lined roads criss-cross it, and there are plans for about 70 per cent of the island to be covered by greenery when fully developed.
High-rise apartment blocks with Singapore-style neighbourhood centres and facilities are also being built.
Upon completion in 2020, the SNEHTI is expected to draw $2.1 billion in investments, and create 100,000 new jobs.
Mr Heng on Saturday also took part in a tree-planting ceremony with top executives from Yanlord and Sembcorp, helping to shovel soil onto a young beech tree at the island's YOG Forest Park.
Staff later asked Mr Heng to sign his name on a plaque on the tree.
"This is the Heng tree!" said the Minister after he signed, leading to hearty laughter and cries of "Heng ah!", a popular Hokkien expression that one is fortunate or lucky, among those present.
Mr Heng arrived in China last Thursday (May 31) for a nine-day working visit. He travels to Shanghai on Monday (June 4), before going to Beijing where he is expected to meet Chinese leaders.