Singapore, Guangdong to deepen collaboration in innovation and people exchange

Mr Ong Ye Kung (left) meets with Guangzhou party chief Ren Xuefeng on Wednesday.
Mr Ong Ye Kung (left) meets with Guangzhou party chief Ren Xuefeng on Wednesday.PHOTO: IE SINGAPORE

BEIJING - Singapore and China's southern province of Guangdong will focus on innovation and technology in future collaborations.

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung called for both sides to work more closely in three areas, namely the Guangzhou Knowledge city, intellectual property development and commercialisation as well as student exchanges and internships.

Mr Ong met top leaders of the province, including party chief Hu Chunhua, governor Ma Xingrui and Guangzhou party chief Ren Xuefeng on Tuesday (Aug 22) and Wednesday.

Mr Hu suggested that Guangdong can partner Singapore in technology and entrepreneurship, given Singapore's strengths in these areas.

This was Mr Ong's first meeting with the 54-year-old rising political star who has been touted as a potential future leader who could take over when Chinese President Xi Jinping steps down.

“The atmospherics were good, and we spoke like old friends even though we were meeting for the first time,” Mr Ong told The Straits Times in a phone interview on Wednesday (Aug 223).

At the meeting, Mr Hu said Guangdong is facing competition from both high-end and lower-end industries as it restructures its economy. It is seeking an equilibrium with its industrial transformation.

Mr Ong and Mr Hu also discussed greater partnership under the Belt and Road Initiative as both Singapore and Guangdong are key nodes. Guangdong hopes to leverage Singapore's strategic location and connections to strengthen partnerships with Southeast Asia.

Mr Ong is in Guangdong on a five-day business mission as the co-chairman of the Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council (SGCC). Established in 2009, the council aims to promote broader exchanges and cooperation between Singapore and Guangdong businesses. The other co-chairman of the council is Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui.

On Wednesday morning, Mr Ong met Guangzhou party chief Ren Xuefeng where they discussed possible collaboration in the city cluster known as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. It is a plan to deepen integration between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland. It will cover social and economic cooperation to improve connectivity within the region.

Mr Ren said Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong each has their role and strength for the Greater Bay Area. Guangzhou’s key strength is in its connectivity, and the availability of land for further development. 

Mr Ong highlighted that Singapore can collaborate with Guangzhou in financial services and technical exchange.

“Guangdong has always been a pioneer in China’s development. It was the starting point of China’s reforms and opening up some forty years ago. It has also been tasked to be a trailblazer in the next phase of China’s development to be a moderately prosperous country by 2021 and a modern country by 2049,” said Mr Ong.

“Singapore and Guangdong have different strengths. While we will compete, there are many complementary areas that we can work together,” he added.

On Monday, Mr Ong launched the Singapore Manufacturing Innovation Centre, a one-stop shop to help broker partnerships between Singapore technology firms and Chinese companies who are in need of solutions in advanced manufacturing.

He will open the Etonhouse International school at Mapletree South China Education Hub in Foshan on Wednesday and meet Shenzhen party chief Wang Weizhong on Thursday.