Singapore is well-placed to remain a key link connecting China with the region in areas of transport, finance and trade, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo yesterday.
Mrs Teo told the inaugural Singapore Regional Business Forum that the country's position at the confluence of major sea and air routes and its role as the second-largest offshore yuan centre outside Greater China give it an active part in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.
Businesses here can operate out of Singapore to tap the growth opportunities in Asean and the broader Asian region.
And those already operating in China or elsewhere have the potential to expand with every new connection or new "flow" that China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative brings about, she added.
The initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with the aim of spurring development through building roads, railroads and other forms of connectivity along continental and maritime routes that link 65 countries on three continents.
To better promote better understanding, China should listen more to its neighbours.
MADAM FU YING, chairman of the Chinese Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, on the importance of building trust, in order for the iniative to succeed
Singapore sits on the sea route dubbed the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" that links China with South-east Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and beyond.
But it will take the collective will of all the countries along both the land and sea routes to bring the idea to reality, said Mrs Teo.
Local governments, businesses and people will need to be given more than just a "token" say in developing such connectivity networks if the initiative is to succeed.
Mrs Teo said she views "One Belt, One Road" as "a process of co-creation, where participating countries see themselves as being able to influence the outcome and retain a sense of ownership over the pace and texture of the collaboration".
This will usher in a new era of cooperation that will bring benefits to all, she added.
Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Madam Fu Ying, chairman of the Chinese Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, also spoke at the forum held at the Ritz Carlton, Millenia.
Prof Koh said that while supportive of the initiative, he hopes China will work hard to gain the trust of its neighbours, make this an open and inclusive initiative that will "evolve from being a Chinese project to being the region's project".
Madam Fu pointed out that Singapore can be an important transit point and service provider in the Silk Road initiative.
She said the dream of connecting Asia and Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific via land can now be realised for China has overcome the constraints of insufficient capital, low technology and poor domestic infrastructure after 20 years of rapid development.
She acknowledged that there are challenges to to be tackled, such as building mutual trust through communication as well as assessing the risk factors of long-term infrastructure projects.
"To better promote better understanding, China should listen more to its neighbours," Madam Fu said, adding that it is important to nurture the comfort level of trust in order for the initiative to succeed.
The one-day event, the first regional business forum organised by the Singapore Business Federation, attracted more than 400 diplomats, business leaders and academics from 22 countries.