Xiplomacy: China, Singapore embrace new era of high-quality cooperation
BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- China and Singapore has elevated bilateral ties to an all-round high-quality future-oriented partnership during Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent China visit.
The agreement on upgrading the partnership is expected to chart the course for the future development of the relationship of the two countries.
It is Lee's first visit to China since 2019. From Guangzhou to Boao, and then to Beijing, he was among the first heads of foreign governments to visit China after the conclusion of China's annual "two sessions" in March.
Since the establishment of China-Singapore diplomatic ties, the bilateral relationship has been forward-looking, strategic and demonstrative, which has not only given a strong boost to the development and rejuvenation of the two countries, but also set a benchmark for countries in the region.
PROGRESSIVE PRACTICAL COOPERATION
On March 22, the 2023 Conference on International Industrial Cooperation (Singapore) and China's Machinery and Electronic Show was held in Singapore after more than two years of preparation.
The event is the first high-level international exhibition jointly organized by Chinese and Singaporean business communities since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exhibition marked a breakthrough in promoting innovation, cooperation and win-win results, indicating that cooperation between Singapore and China has reached a new peak, said Kho Choon Keng, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Over the years, programs such as the three government-to-government projects, the Guangzhou Knowledge City project, and the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative, have focused on the Belt and Road cooperation, as well as economy, trade, finance, public health and cultural exchanges, and continuously pushed bilateral practical cooperation forward.
Take the Suzhou Industrial Park in east China's Jiangsu Province, the two sides' first inter-government project that was started in 1994.
Today, the project has given birth to an industrial system featuring new-generation information technology and high-end equipment manufacturing. In 2022, it grossed a regional gross domestic product of 51.2 billion U.S. dollars.
Entering the 21st century, China and Singapore decided to build an environmentally friendly city in north China's Tianjin Municipality, pursuing more sustainable development and harmony between humans and nature.
As of now, the Tianjin Eco-City hosts a permanent resident population of over 120,000 and 14,000 market entities. The ecological restoration and water treatment experience in the region has been promoted and applied to many parts of China.
When China and Singapore marked the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic ties back in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping was invited to visit Singapore. During that visit, the leaders of the two countries agreed to build an all-round cooperative partnership progressing with the times.
Witnessed by Xi and Lee during the visit in 2015, the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, the third government-to-government project, was launched.
The project covers key areas including financial services, the aviation industry, transportation and logistics, as well as information and communication.
As of November last year, a total of 218 commercial and government cooperation programs and 235 financial cooperation programs have been signed within the project, altogether amounting to more than 54.3 billion dollars.
FRIENDLY NEIGHBOR, GROWING EXCHANGES
On the evening of Feb. 6, the Royal Plaza Hotel on Scotts near Orchard Road, a bustling business district in Singapore, held a lively party to welcome the first Chinese tourist group after China resumed its outbound group travels.
"Chinese guests are coming back," said Sun Wenli, a Singaporean tour guide who served the Chinese tour group.
China and Singapore are friendly neighbors across the sea with a long history of amicable exchanges. In the early 15th century, Zheng He, a Chinese navigator of the Ming Dynasty, made several visits to places where today is Singapore on his ocean voyages.
During his 2015 visit to Singapore, Xi attended the official opening ceremony of the China Cultural Center. Designed by Liu Thai Ker, the master planner of Singapore, the center combines Chinese cultural elements and modern architectural design and has hosted a variety of cultural and artistic activities since its operation. It has become a bridge of friendship between the two peoples.
In January, following China's optimization of its COVID-19 response and gradual restoration of entry and exit, several Chinese provincial-level regions came to Singapore for tourism promotion activities.
"The development interests of Singapore and China are deeply intertwined and the cultural exchanges between the peoples of the two countries are very close," said Wong Yew Hoong, chairman of outbound service of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore.
"Young people in Singapore are increasingly interested in China, and we hope to make a difference in Chinese tourism," Wong said.
Local people's interest in Chinese literature is also growing. After the Spring Festival holiday, staff of Union Book, a Chinese bookstore in Singapore, put new books imported from China onto the shelves.
"Young parents in Singapore hope that their kids could learn more about Chinese culture, so the children's books we imported are very popular, especially those picture booklets introducing traditional culture," said Margaret Ma, managing director of Union Book.
HIGH-QUALITY COMMON DEVELOPMENT
In the blueprint drawn by the leaders of the two countries, high quality is the most distinct feature of the China-Singapore cooperation.
Strengthening the building of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, deepening digital and green transition as well as improving third-party cooperation will greatly boost the quality of the overall bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
For example, the Guangzhou Knowledge City project now stands as an important carrier and innovative model of bilateral cooperation. Within this project, the two countries launched last June the China-Singapore Smart Park. The new move is committed to creating a global industrial ecosystem centered on biomedicine, new-generation information technology and artificial intelligence.
Renowned Singaporean institutions and enterprises including SP Group, DBS Bank, NCS Group, Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore (NUS) have settled in the park.
Singapore's convenient public transport is one of the symbols of the city-state. In recent years, more electric buses produced by the Chinese brands BYD and Yutong have been in operation in Singapore.
"China and Singapore can deepen cooperation in biopharmaceuticals, electronic technology, environmental protection technology, and renewable energy," said Chen Gang, assistant director of the East Asian Institute of NUS.
"China has made tremendous progress in solar and wind power generation, as well as electric vehicles research and manufacturing. The prospects for renewable energy cooperation between China and Singapore are promising," Chen said.
With the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the cooperation between China and Singapore in digital economy and interconnection has not only broadened the prospects for bilateral ties, but will also facilitate the sustainable development in the region.
Impressed by a Chinese company's project, Gu Qingyang, director of Chinese Executive Education and associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, said it uses cloud technology to help start-ups in Southeast Asia create an ecosystem suitable for business development, enabling small and micro businesses to grow rapidly through technological innovation and international cooperation, which is of great help to these companies.