Singapore and China are looking to take cooperation to a “higher level”, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, noting that global changes like the anti-globalisation push has actually expanded the scope for cooperation in the region.
In an interview with the Xinhua news agency published yesterday as he began a week-long visit to China, DPM Heng said the two countries have to build on what is already a “good foundation” to “grow new areas of cooperation that would meet the needs of both China and Singapore”.
“With the decline in support for globalisation, with the technological changes that are happening, with the many structural changes that are happening all around the world and particularly in our region, the scope for cooperation has actually been enlarged. So the challenges are greater but so are the opportunities,” he said.
Mr Heng, who is on his first visit to China as Deputy Prime Minister, added that China’s growth and development can drive regional growth and the global economy, and he held up the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a strategic and forward-looking programme.
Noting that Singapore was an early supporter of the BRI – an initiative to build infrastructure linking China to Asia, Africa and Europe – Mr Heng said the initiative is not just about infrastructure but enabling the flow of ideas, peoples and capital, which then leads to greater collaboration across different parts of the world.
The same messages also emerged yesterday in a meeting between Mr Heng and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng.
Mr Heng noted that government agencies from both sides have followed up well since last year’s Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting in Singapore, delivering results such as the new Singapore Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council (SSCCC) – the Republic’s eighth business council with a provincial-level area in China.
Both leaders reaffirmed the strong and long-standing relations between the two countries, and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation under the BRI, including in financial connectivity and legal and judicial services.
In the Xinhua interview, Mr Heng was also asked what he felt was the biggest challenge he faces as Singapore’s new Deputy Prime Minister. He said it is maintaining the societal consensus that the country has achieved so far and finding ways to mobilise Singaporeans to solve problems together.
Even as the Government tackles the immediate challenges, it has to think long-term and sometimes “undertake policies that may not be so obvious or of immediate concern to our people”, said Mr Heng.
“But if we set ourselves on the right trajectory from the beginning, I think we have a better chance of succeeding.”
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