Singapore will continue to back China's economic efforts: PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Beijing yesterday. PM Lee is on a five-day working visit to China.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Beijing yesterday. PM Lee is on a five-day working visit to China.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

He expresses confidence Beijing will uphold multilateral trade and contribute to global development

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 yesterday at a meeting with Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan.

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. It has threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese imports in recent weeks, stoking fears of a trade war between the two economic giants.

A trade war would severely undermine the multilateral trading system, PM Lee said in an interview published on Sunday by the People's Daily.

PM Lee, who arrived on Sunday for a five-day working visit to China, met Mr Wang in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound.

Both leaders noted the "deep and broad cooperation" between their countries... They said there is potential to take the cooperation to a new level through the Belt and Road Initiative.

Mr Wang shared with PM Lee key domestic developments, including the policy and direction of the next stage of China's opening up, which focuses on high-quality development rather than rapid growth.

Mr Wang 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 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 said there is potential to take the cooperation to a new level through the Belt and Road Initiative.

PM Lee also congratulated Mr Wang, who was appointed Vice-President during China's annual legislative meetings last month. 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 has had many friends there, including founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew who had made important contributions to China's reform and opening up since it began 40 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 Singapore ministers and officials is the second foreign delegation, after one from the Philippines, that Mr Wang has met since his new appointment.

PM Lee last met Mr Wang when he visited Beijing in September last year, before the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress.

After his meeting with Mr Wang, PM Lee also visited Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing.

He left Beijing yesterday for Boao in southern Hainan Island, where he will speak at the annual Boao Forum for Asia and meet President Xi.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore will continue to back China's economic efforts: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe