SHANGHAI -Singapore companies can tap the newly upgraded Guangzhou Knowledge City (GKC) to access opportunities in China's Greater Bay Area (GBA), said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (Dec 7).
Likewise, Guangdong companies can use the innovation-focused township as a springboard for their expansion into South-east Asia.
Mr Ong was on a three-day visit to southern Guangdong where he tested the two latest transport links in the GBA, which is a mega city cluster comprising Hong Kong, Macau and nine other surrounding Chinese cities in Guangdong province around the Pearl River estuary.
The area is positioned as part of a strategic plan for China's next phase of growth that is focused on innovation and technology.
Mr Ong flew from Singapore to Hong Kong and travelled to Zhuhai by road via the newly opened Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. On the trip back, he took the new high-speed rail that links mainland China to Hong Kong before returning to Singapore.
"I want to personally try the bridge before it gets too busy with many cars," he told Singapore reporters in Mandarin.
The entire journey from Hong Kong to Zhuhai took him 45 minutes, inclusive of clearing customs.
"This is an infrastructure that will change lives," he noted, referring to the enhanced connectivity that the mega sea bridge brought to the cities around the GBA.
Given the huge area that the GBA covers, Mr Ong thinks all Singapore companies should come and explore cooperation opportunities in an array of sectors.
"They have an option to use the GKC as a springboard as the state-level project lies on the western-most tip of the GBA," he said.
On this visit to Guangdong province, Mr Ong noticed that the local government has placed high importance for the need to protect intellectual property rights.
And it is one area in which both countries can cooperate more closely.
"Our IPOS (Intellectual Property Office of Singapore) has a representative office in the GKC, and through that office, we will have more exchanges and we will learn from each other our IP regimes because I believe China realises that protecting IP better, with a stronger and more robust IP regime, in the next phase of China's development is in its own interest," he said.
When asked for his take on Singapore's fourth-generation leaders' rapport with the Chinese leaders, he pointed out that the younger ministers have been visiting China regularly as this is a very important bilateral relationship for Singapore.
"The moment we were appointed to the Cabinet, we, very shortly, also receive our assignments in China," he said, noting that while he was assigned to southern Guangdong, various other ministers were assigned to areas like south-western Chongqing, eastern Shandong as well as Jiangsu.
"Each of us focus on an area, also to understand the area and build up relations in that area."
Every year, the various leaders make many visits "to and fro" and there are formal platforms like the business council meetings that provided a useful forum to discuss issues.
"They give us a very good avenue to build up relations and continue the good cooperation that our predecessors have built between Singapore and China," said Mr Ong, who is the Co-Chairman of the Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council (SGCC).
During the visit, Mr Ong met Guangdong party boss Li Xi, Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui as well as Guangzhou party chief Zhang Shuofu.
He was accompanied by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat.