The award China conferred this month (Dec) on Singapore’s late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is a strong affirmation of his longstanding support for the country’s reform and opening up as well as the friendship between the two countries, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Mr Lee was one of 10 foreigners awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal at a ceremony led by President Xi Jinping on Dec 18 to mark the 40th anniversary of China's reforms.
Singapore-China Foundation chairman Alan Chan Heng Loon received the award on behalf of Mr Lee, who died in 2015, aged 91.
In PM Lee’s remarks to China's official Xinhua news agency, which was doing a follow-up story on Mr Lee’s award, he said: “Mr Lee was one of the first to foresee this dramatic success (of China’s reform and opening up).”
The Xinhua story was published on Saturday (Dec 29).
Below is PM Lee’s full reply to Xinhua as released by the Prime Minister’s Office, and which was titled Singapore’s Participation In China’s Reform And Opening Up:
"Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a longstanding friend of China. He was a close observer of China and took a deep interest in its development. Over 37 years, Mr Lee visited China 33 times and witnessed first-hand China's phenomenal growth and development. He not only went to the major coastal cities, but also many inland provinces and historic destinations. He thus gained a better understanding of Chinese society, and of the tremendous determination of the Chinese people to transform their society and improve their lives.
Mr Lee's involvement in China's reform and opening up traces back to his first meeting with Mr Deng Xiaoping in Singapore in 1978, which Mr Lee described as "unforgettable". During his visit, Mr Deng saw how Singapore, a resource-less small island, could create a better life for its people by bringing in foreign investments, management, and technical skills. Mr Lee told Mr Deng, "there was nothing that Singapore had done that China could not do, and do better".
Subsequently, especially following Mr Deng's Southern Tour in 1992, hundreds of Chinese delegations made study trips to Singapore to exchange views on our development experiences.
The multi-faceted cooperation between Singapore and China today was built upon the foundations laid by Mr Lee and Mr Deng. It was Mr Lee who first suggested our first Government-to-Government (G-to-G) project, the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). Mr Lee proposed setting up an industrial park as a platform for Singapore to share its urban planning and industrial development experience with China. He was deeply involved in steering the project in its early years, visiting Suzhou several times and discussing it with China's leaders at the highest levels.
At the SIP's 15th anniversary celebrations in 2009, Mr Lee commented that SIP had "outdone" Singapore. The SIP will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, as a bustling metropolis that has inspired many other projects within and outside of China.
The SIP led to our second G-to-G project, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city (SSTEC). This was launched in 2008 as a case study for sustainable development that would be relevant to other parts of China. The third G-to-G project, the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), was launched in 2015 to promote the development of China's Western Region and the Yangtze River Economic Belt, and contribute to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
All these projects were designed to complement China's evolving development needs.
China has made huge strides over 40 years of its reform and opening up. Mr Lee was one of the first to foresee this dramatic success, the huge difference this would make to China's population and the world, and how Singapore could participate in and benefit from this transformation. The Reform and Friendship Award accorded to Mr Lee by the Chinese Government is a strong affirmation of his longstanding support for China's development, and friendship between China and Singapore. Singapore wishes China every success in its continuing journey of reform and opening up under President Xi Jinping, and looks forward to our relations flourishing for many more years to come."