BEIJING - Singapore will continue to support China’s efforts in its next stage of opening up and in upholding the multilateral trading system, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (April 9) at a meeting with Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Beijing.
PM Lee said the world, including China, is undergoing a period of significant transition, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
But he “expressed confidence that China would continue to open up and uphold the multilateral trading system, and contribute to the development and prosperity of the region and the world.”
His comments come as protectionist sentiment is rising in the United States. The US has threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese imports in recent weeks, stoking fears of a trade war between the two economic superpowers.
On Sunday, PM Lee had said in an interview published by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, that a trade war would severely undermine the multilateral trading system.
PM Lee, who arrived on Sunday for a five-day working visit to China, met Mr Wang at the Ziguang Ge, or Hall of Purple Light, within the Zhongnanhai leadership compound.
Both men exchanged warm pleasantries and handshakes before sitting down for a meeting.
The PMO said Mr Wang shared with PM Lee the key domestic developments in China, including the policy and direction of the next stage of China’s opening up, focusing on high-quality development rather than rapid growth.
Mr Wang also said that as China is still opening up, there remain “many areas where Singapore’s developmental experience would still be relevant for China to take reference from”, according to the PMO statement.
PM Lee said Singaporeans and Chinese are visiting each other’s countries for business and tourism, and there are many areas where Singapore is also learning from China.
Both leaders noted the “deep and broad cooperation” between their countries, particularly on the three successful government-to-government projects – the Suzhou Industrial Park, the Tianjin Eco-city and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.
They also said there was potential to bring the cooperation to a new level through the Belt and Road Initiative.
PM Lee congratulated Mr Wang, who was appointed vice-president during China’s annual legislative meetings in March. He said he was happy to visit Beijing and “meet old friends and leaders of China”.
Mr Wang, a key ally of President Xi Jinping, was formerly China’s anti-corruption czar. He is known to keep a low public profile, but is often described as China’s second-most powerful politician.
Mr Wang said Singapore is an “old friend” of China, and he personally has had many friends in Singapore, including founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who had made important contributions to China’s reform and opening up since it began forty years ago.
“We have known each other for so many years, we are old friends,” said Mr Wang as he welcomed PM Lee, Mrs Lee and the Singapore delegation.
The group of ministers and officials that PM Lee is leading is the second foreign delegation that Mr Wang is meeting since his new appointment.
It is also the second time both leaders are meeting at the Ziguang Ge. The hall is located within the Forbidden City and was once the venue where Chinese Emperor Qianlong feted loyal officials and generals. The hall is now used by Chinese leaders to receive foreign guests.
PM Lee last met Mr Wang when he visited Beijing in September last year, before the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress.
He leaves Beijing on Monday for Boao in southern Hainan island, where he is scheduled to speak at the annual Boao Forum for Asia and meet President Xi.