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Zhang Yongxing & Gao Chuan
China and Singapore have enjoyed good relations on a broad front over the past two decades, and Chinese President Hu Jintao’s forthcoming visit to Singapore next week will give the already good relations another push upwards, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.
In a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua, Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore is very happy that its relations with China have grown and prospered over the last 20 years in many fields.
“In trade, of course, the volume has increased many, many folds. And China is now one of our most important trading partners. In economic relations, generally, tourism, we have nearly a million visitors a year from China now. And many Singaporeans visit China every year. We have significant investments in each other’s countries. We have a lot of people working in each other’s countries. And we have major economic cooperation projects like the Suzhou Industrial Park which have been very successful, and new ones to come which are promising, such as the Eco-City in Tianjin,” Lee said.
Lee added that Singapore’s relationship with China goes beyond the economic field because in the cultural areas and political areas also, both sides have good cooperation. And in education too, the two countries have students studying in each other’s countries and there is collaboration between their institutes of higher learning and institutions.
“So, I think on a broad front, we have good relations. Certainly, in terms of government-to-government visits, we are honored by many Chinese ministers and leaders visiting Singapore. And President Hu Jintao will be here next week for a state visit. And we are very happy that on our side, many Singaporean leaders and ministers have visited China. And we have established a mutual understanding and rapport to appreciate where we can work together and where our common perspectives are even though Singapore is a tiny country with five million population and China is a huge country with 1.3 billion population,” Lee said.
In his opinion, Lee said that in terms of broader relations, the most important thing is at the strategic level.
“Singapore and China share an interest in a stable, prosperous and open region, one where the countries are cooperating close together and at the same time, one where we have good relations across the Pacific and with the rest of the world. We cooperate not just between China and Singapore but also with the regional cooperation between China and ASEAN, and China participating in the EAS (East Asia Summit), the ASEAN-Plus-Three and in the APEC organization. And these are all areas which ought to progress in parallel in order to enhance the framework of cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region and particularly between Singapore and China,” Lee said.
As for what areas for the development of such cooperation should be focused on in the current political and economic situation, Lee said that economy continues to be very important because trade continues to grow. Tourism continues to grow. Singapore and China are also developing ties between their universities further.
“We have the Tianjin Eco-City project which has the potential and which we hope will develop into another project like the Suzhou Industrial Park, demonstrating what is feasible and what China can accomplish with the right combination of ideas, investments, innovation and good governance at the city level,” he said.
Talking about Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Lee said that he believes that this visit will give the already good relations another push upwards.
He looks forward to discussing with President Hu the areas of cooperation and to initiate a few new areas as well.
“I think we will be discussing our bilateral relationship and what more we can do to develop the relationship. We have some ideas in the cultural area, in the educational area and one or two additional projects which are under discussion which we hope will be worked out in time for this
visit. We will certainly also be discussing cooperation between ASEAN and China,” Lee said.
Lee added that he hopes they will have a chance to discuss the overall situation in Asia-Pacific and he will have a chance to understand from President Hu how Hu sees the situation within China and the measures which China is taking in order to keep its economy on an even keel, maintain growth and contribute to prosperity in the region.