Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday credited Singapore founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for his "outstanding contributions" to peace and development in Asia, and for fostering the region's ties with the rest of the world.
"Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a strategist and statesman who has the respect of the international society," Mr Xi said in a keynote speech at the annual Boao Forum for Asia in southern Hainan province.
"He has made outstanding contributions to peace and development in Asia, and to fostering the region's ties and cooperation with the rest of the world.
"I would like to take this opportunity to express my highest respect to all the distinguished people who have come before us, including Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who have made contributions to the peaceful development of Asia."
The two men met in November 2007 in the Great Hall of the People when Mr Lee was on a visit to Beijing.
In his book, One Man's View Of The World, Mr Lee had said that while he had not asked to see Mr Xi, Chinese officials arranged for him to meet Mr Xi anyway - a sign that he was considered high on the priority list.
It was Mr Xi's first meeting with any foreign leader after being promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee, China's apex decision-making body, a move that indicated to the world he had been slated to take over from then President Hu Jintao, Mr Lee wrote.
Mr Xi struck him as a man of great breadth, he added.
"He is not narrow-minded. He thinks through a problem deeply and does not want to show off his knowledge. He lacks the bonhomie of Jiang Zemin and is not as formalistic as Hu Jintao. But he has gravitas. That was my first impression," Mr Lee said.
China is sending Vice-President Li Yuanchao to attend today's funeral service for Mr Lee.
Many Chinese leaders, including Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli and State Councillor Yang Jiechi, have paid tribute to Mr Lee over the past few days.