Common interest of Singapore and China greater than any difference of views: DPM Teo Chee Hean

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean speaking at the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership at Shangri-La.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The common interest of Singapore and China in building a peaceful and growing region is much greater than any occasional differences of views between them, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Wednesday (May 24).

Both countries have a broad and longstanding relationship, share similar views on most issues and have worked well together to advance these common interests, said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

"But even among close neighbours and friends, there might be different perspectives on some issues, given that the countries are of different sizes, and have different histories, vulnerabilities and geographical locations," he said.

He was speaking at a public forum titled "China in a Transitional Global Order". It was organised by the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute to mark its 20th anniversary.

Singapore and China's fundamental position is that they share a common interest in the peaceful growth and development of their countries and the region, and that remains the same, said Mr Teo.

"Singapore will continue to be a strong and principled supporter of China's peaceful development and constructive engagement," he added.

Mr Teo also gave his reading of international relations and domestic politics in East Asia, and spoke on the economic, social and political aspects of China's rise.


Singapore-China ties

Mr Teo's speech came amid perception from some quarters that Singapore-China ties are going through a rough patch following media reports speculating why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had not attended the One Belt, One Road summit in Beijing last week.

Singapore was represented by National Development Minister and Second Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

In his speech, Mr Teo highlighted recent high-level exchanges between the two countries.

In February, he and Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli co-chaired the 13th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting in Beijing. Last week, Mr Teo and Mr Zhao Leji, a Politburo member and Central Committee Organisation Department Minister, both led the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership in Singapore.

Said Mr Teo of the forum: "We had a wide ranging exchange of views of common interest between our two countries. Such dialogues reflect a high level of mutual trust between our countries, and our mutual desire to learn from the experiences of each other."

He added that the forum is a unique dialogue which Singapore does not have with any other country.

Singapore is optimistic that China will develop a productive economy, as a prosperous and stable China benefits the region and the world, said Mr Teo.

China is also playing a more significant role internationally, with its two key initiatives to connect countries across regions: its One Belt One Road planned infrastructure network, and its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to fund infrastructure along trade routes.

Singapore supports both initiatives, which will encourage further economic integration and infrastructure development, said Mr Teo.

"I'm optimistic about China's potential to continually reinvent itself and play a greater leadership role in the region and globally," he added.

Singapore's position on Hong Kong and Taiwan

Mr Teo also reiterated Singapore's position on Taiwan and Hong Kong.

"Cross-strait relations have become more complicated as the politics in Taiwan become more complex," he noted.

"Singapore has always maintained our One China policy," he said, adding that it is an old friend to both sides and will continue to support the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations.

Turning to Hong Kong, which recently elected a new chief executive, Mr Teo said that its stability and prosperity are best assured under the "one country, two systems" framework.

"We wish Hong Kong well and will continue to seek partnerships and exchanges with Hong Kong," he added.