It is in the interest of Singapore, and the region, that China succeeds, Chee Hong Tat says

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat.
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The notion that Singapore should align more closely to China so that it would not invest in Singapore's competitors is a "simplistic and flawed" belief because China's decisions are based on its national interests, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat said on Friday (May 26).

Concerns about Singapore's relations with China have led some people to suggest that Singapore should take China's side more often to lessen its investment in Singapore's neighbouring countries.

"This is a simplistic and flawed conclusion. The Chinese are investing in our region and beyond to enhance their connectivity and energy security. Their decisions are guided by their national interests," he said.

"It is in our interest and in the region's interest that China succeeds," Mr Chee told business leaders at a ceremony marking the end of a three-week management course.

The Future China Advanced Leaders Programme is organised by Business China and Nanyang Business School, with support from trade agency International Enterprise Singapore, to give entrepreneurs and executives an insight into the latest economic opportunities and developments in China.

This year's course had 22 participants. Since the programme began in 2012, 135 people have taken part.

In his speech, Mr Chee reiterated Singapore's close cooperation with China over the years, and said it is Singapore's "longstanding and consistent position" that a successful China is good for the region.

"Although sometimes there may be occasional differences over how our two countries view certain issues, this is only natural even between close friends and neighbours," he added.

Mr Chee noted that from time to time, some parties exaggerate negative news on Singapore-China relations.

"We should not be rattled by these tactics, and should instead focus on further strengthening our bilateral ties with China at different levels and with different provinces," he said.

Even when both sides enjoy a close relationship, it cannot be taken for granted and constant work is needed to strengthen the close cooperation, he noted.

"Speaking the same language, sharing the same cultural traditions and having ancestors who came from the same village several generations ago can be an advantage, but they are not going to get us very far if that is all we have to offer," he said.

To be of value to China or any other major power, Singapore must continue to be a vibrant, successful city with a stable political leadership, said Mr Chee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health.

Singapore must also, among other things, remain a trusted and credible country that upholds its commitments and adheres consistently to international laws, he said.

Looking ahead, he said a key priority for Singapore is to press on with transforming the economy, helping companies to be more competitive globally, and create good jobs for Singaporeans - while remaining a united, cohesive society.

Last month, the programme's 22 Singapore participants visited Urumqi and Horgos in China, as well as Almaty in Kazakhstan, to acquaint themselves with business opportunities that China's One Belt, One Road insfrastructure initiative will bring to western China and Central Asia. Mr Chee and Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon led the group on the visit to the two countries.

"While it is not without its challenges, China's 'Belt and Road' initiative has the potential to bring about many opportunities for countries in the region, and provide areas of collaboration that allow everyone to grow and prosper together," Mr Chee said.