Sino-Singapore ties have grown in the past year, and Singapore hopes to sustain this momentum and take the bilateral relationship even further this year, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.
To do this, it is important to ensure that young Singapore leaders forge strong relationships with their Chinese counterparts.
Mr Teo, who is on a six-day visit to China beginning in Beijing yesterday, made these comments in meetings with Chinese leaders.
At his meeting with Politburo Standing Committee member Zhao Leji, China's sixth-ranked leader, at the Great Hall of the People, Mr Teo said the bilateral relationship has grown from "strength to strength" in the past year.
He told Mr Zhao that he has brought a delegation of both familiar and new faces "in order to strengthen relations between our two sides and grow friendships with the leadership in China".
Adding that there would be further visits later this year, Mr Teo said: "These visits provide very important guidance for the work that our ministers and officials do."
He told Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office director Yang Jiechi at their meeting that he wanted the younger Singapore leaders to "understand the depth and the breadth of our relationship, and also make new friends".
Accompanying Mr Teo on the trip are Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah as well as senior parliamentary secretaries Sun Xueling and Tan Wu Meng.
Mr Teo's visit is the second in less than three weeks by a top Singapore leader. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was in Beijing last month for the China Development Forum. Later this month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is expected to be here for the Belt and Road Forum. President Halimah Yacob has also been invited to attend the Asian Civilisation Dialogue here next month.
Noting that top Chinese leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang, have visited Singapore in the past year, Mr Teo told Mr Zhao that the flurry of visits was proof of their countries' strong bilateral ties.
The Singapore delegation received a warm welcome yesterday, with Chinese leaders calling Mr Teo an "old friend".
National Defence Minister Wei Fenghe hugged Mr Teo twice before they sat down for discussions.
Mr Zhao, who is secretary of the anti-graft Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, noted that a key part of Mr Teo's trip is the 7th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership, which the DPM will co-chair with Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Organisation Department Minister Chen Xi.
Having attended the forum with Mr Teo on three occasions in previous years, Mr Zhao said he has always been "deeply impressed" by Mr Teo's remarks.
This year's forum, a high-level bilateral exchange between both countries, will be held in Yan'an, Shaanxi province.
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the two leaders agreed that their countries shared many common challenges and should maintain regular exchanges.
Mr Teo, who also met head of the Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs Guo Shengkun and Taiwan Affairs Office director Liu Jieyi, heads to Suzhou today.