Singapore-China ties in good stead to meet future challenges: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat interacting with Singapore students studying at Tsinghua University after his speech on Saturday (Nov 25). ST PHOTO: LIM YAN LIANG

BEIJING - The enduring ties between Singapore and China put the two countries' partnership in good stead to meet the complex challenges of the future, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told some 200 Chinese students at Tsinghua University on Saturday (Nov 25).

In a 35-minute speech at the university's School of Economics and Management, Mr Heng laid out three principles and five areas for closer Singapore-China cooperation moving forward, in order to tackle problems likely to bedevil the global economy in the next decade.

The first principle is to move with the times and ensure cooperation stays relevant for both sides.

"As our countries progress, our cooperation will have to evolve to meet new needs and interests to remain relevant," said Mr Heng.

Second is to collaborate through all-round partnerships and seek new frontiers. Mr Heng pointed out that the two economies are becoming more interconnected, while technological advances present new opportunities for teaming up.

"We need to remain open to new ideas, and seek new areas of partnership."

The third principle is to build on each other's strengths and form win-win partnerships.

"By learning from one another, drawing on our respective strengths, we can achieve mutual benefits," said Mr Heng.

"In turn, we can build our ties in substantial and fruitful ways."

Mr Heng also listed in detail the five areas of potential cooperation: trade, innovation, finance, people-to-people ties, and environmental sustainability.

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The friendship between Singapore and China is strong as it has been built up over successive generations of leaders on both sides, said Mr Heng.

It began with the strong foundation laid by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and continues till today, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to Beijing being the last official visit to China before last month's 19th party congress.

"With each new generation of leaders, we have been establishing new friendships, and hope that new friends will also become old friends and good friends," he said.

This durable relationship presents an opportunity for the two sides to tackle together three key problems facing the world in the decade ahead, said Mr Heng.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon posing for a photo with Singapore students studying at Tsinghua University. ST PHOTO: LIM YAN LIANG

Fast greying populations, especially in Asia, means higher healthcare expenditures, slowing labour force growth and less workers supporting more elderly, which will affect countries' fiscal health and impact growth.

Technology, while presenting new opportunities, will also lead to some skills becoming redundant and jobs lost. Productivity is still growing, but at a slower rate.

Income inequality and other fault lines have also weakened social cohesion in many parts of the world, which has led to growing frustration with ruling elites who have in turn made globalisation "an easy scapegoat", said Mr Heng.

With the right policies, these challenges can be turned into opportunities for Singapore and China to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth, said Mr Heng.

"The challenges which I've talked about are complex - and especially so for China, a nation of more than 1.3 billion. As tomorrow's leaders in business and government, the future is in your hands," he told the audience.

"Moving forward, there will be increasing cooperation at the government, business and people-to-people levels to meet evolving needs and form all-round, win-win partnerships."

Mr Heng is visiting China for a series of talks and meetings. He was in Suzhou to co-chair the 11th Singapore-Jiangsu Cooperation Council meeting and launch the NUS Enterprise's Block71 Suzhou, a hub for start-ups located in Suzhou Industrial Park.

On Friday, he launched in Beijing Singapore government's first overseas initiative under the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA), a network to promote entrepreneurship and innovation with a focus on technology.

He will also call on senior Chinese officials, and visit ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing.

He is accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon, as well as officials from the ministries of Finance, Education, and Trade and Industry, as well as from IE Singapore.

He returns home on Sunday.

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