Singapore's confidence in the future of China is best reflected in the continuous flow of its investments into China, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said as he voiced confidence in its continued success under President Xi Jinping's leadership.
Speaking at a state banquet held in honour of Mr Xi last night, Dr Tan noted that Singapore has been China's largest foreign investor for the past two years while China has been Singapore's largest trading partner since 2013.
He also noted that Singapore was the first country in Asia to launch negotiations with China for a bilateral free trade agreement, which came into force in January 2009. It has since boosted bilateral trade and investments by over 160 per cent and 162 per cent respectively.
"It is, therefore, fitting that, as we commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations, our countries have agreed to launch a substantive upgrade of the China-Singapore FTA to prepare for the next stage of our economic cooperation."
Dr Tan said the upgrade will also serve as a pathfinder for both countries' participation in regional economic frameworks.
A RAPIDLY GROWING RELATIONSHIP
When Singapore became independent in 1965, nobody expected that we would survive, much less succeed. Similarly, when we established diplomatic relations with China in 1990, nobody could have predicted that our friendship and cooperation would have grown so rapidly and in such a broad and deep manner. This can be attributed to the historical and cultural linkages between our two peoples, including our pioneer generation of leaders.
PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM, on how Sino-Singapore relations have grown beyond expectations
EXCITING NEW CHAPTERS AHEAD
With the establishment of an all-round partnership that keeps pace with times, China will work with Singapore to seize the momentum, enhance political trust and gain new practical cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit. And strengthen our coordination and collaboration on international and regional issues. Together, we will write more new exciting chapters in China-Singapore relations.
PRESIDENT XI JINPING, on what China hopes to do through a new partnership with Singapore
He cited the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership - an initiative between the 10-member Asean group and its six dialogue partners, including China - as well as the Asean-China FTA upgrade.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said Dr Tan and Mr Xi had agreed to upgrade the CSFTA and conclude it by next year.
Dr Tan said Singapore is also pleased to have been able to participate "in modest ways" in China's modern economic development over the past three decades, which has "unlocked unprecedented levels of growth and development in the country and lifted millions of Chinese people out of poverty".
Going forward, he said President Xi is leading the Chinese people into a new era of progress and prosperity through "Comprehensively Deepening Reforms".
It is the name and mandate of a leading small group within the Communist Party chaired by Mr Xi that espouses holistic policy formulation and pushes social and economic reforms even in the face of opposition from vested interest groups.
"This is a remarkable endeavour and I am confident that China will continue to succeed under your leadership," said Dr Tan.
He said Singapore has also always backed China's peaceful role in the regional architecture and global initiatives, pointing out that it was among the first countries to support China's initiative to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to meet infrastructural development demand in the region.
Singapore, he said, also welcomes China's Silk Road initiatives to revive two ancient trading routes and improve trade and culture links between China and Europe via Central and South-east Asia.
Mr Xi, with his wife Peng Liyuan, arrived yesterday for his first state visit to Singapore since taking over the presidency in 2013.
Looking back, Dr Tan said nobody could have predicted when Sino-Singapore diplomatic relations began in 1990 that the friendship and cooperation between them would have grown so rapidly and in such a broad and deep manner.
It is similar to how nobody had expected Singapore would survive, much less succeed, when it became independent in 1965, he said.
"This can be attributed to the historical and cultural linkages between our two peoples, including our pioneer generation of leaders," said Dr Tan.
A demonstration of political mutual trust was reflected by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's first visit to China in 1976 and Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping's visit to Singapore in 1978, even before diplomatic ties began, he said.
"To this day, mutual respect and political trust between our two countries remain high, and high-level exchanges continue to be frequent."