Spotlight: Xi's visit to Singapore to draw blueprint for bilateral practical cooperation, exchanges

2015-11-06 02:26:46 GMT2015-11-06 10:26:46(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Singapore from Nov. 6 to 7 will advance Sino-Singaporean ties by creating new prospects and fresh engines for bilateral cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.

Building upon the achievements in large-scale projects, finance, education and other areas, Xi's visit will map out a new blueprint for future China-Singapore relations, thus consolidating its neighborhood diplomacy featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness.

ASEAN-China Dialogue, a mechanism created 25 years ago by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for the next three years.

Closer China-Singapore ties are evident in the frequent high-level visits between the two countries in 2015 alone: Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam paid a state visit to China from late June to early July and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli visited Singapore in October, making Xi's visit the third high-level bilateral meeting in just one year.

When hosting his Singaporean counterpart Tan in Beijing, Xi proposed that the two sides further strengthen their strategic communication and maintain high-level interactions to enhance political trust in each other, which he said will "escort" the practical cooperation between the two countries.

Reiterating China's commitment to peaceful development and good-neighborhood policy, Xi told Tan that the Chinese side is willing to cooperate with Singapore and other ASEAN countries to advance their relationship in a sustained way.

Agreeing with Xi in saying that the close high-level interactions have ensured the development of bilateral ties, Tan highlighted the fact that the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will benefit all countries in the region.

Tan pledged that Singapore will play an active role in boosting the relationship between ASEAN and China.

Chinese Ambassador to Singapore Chen Xiaodong said that the two countries are making joint efforts to promote their ties by enhancing political trust, creating new engines for cooperation and deepening cultural exchanges.

NEW ENGINE FOR COOPERATION

Xi said in March that the Belt and Road initiative and the AIIB are open to all. China welcomes every willing country to join in and seeks to align these efforts with the development strategies of countries interested in them, which China says will not feature its own solo, but rather a symphony staged by all parties.

Given its geographic location, Singapore stands at a strategic point along the Maritime Silk Road, which constitutes the Belt and Road initiative together with the Silk Road Economic Belt that connects China, Central Asia and Europe.

Tan said Singapore not only will participate in the cooperation within the AIIB framework, of which Singapore "is happy to become a founding member," but it also recognizes the great significance of expanding cooperation between China and ASEAN countries in various areas.

As an international financial and commerce center, Singapore has agreed to further promote the internationalization of the renminbi (RMB) by expanding the cross-border use of the RMB between Singapore and China from within the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City -- two intergovernmental cooperation projects -- to all parts of the two cities.

Since its establishment in 1994, the 278-square km Suzhou Industrial Park, based in eastern China's Suzhou city, has so far attracted 26.7 billion U.S. dollars of foreign investment from more than 90 of the Fortune top 500 enterprises into 5,200 programs, making it a paradigm of China-Singapore cooperation.

In 2008, the two countries launched a second project, Tianjin Eco-City, in northern China's port city of Tianjin to meet the need for eco-friendly development.

Last month, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment and Development Co. issued overall 1 billion yuan (157.8 million dollars) worth of three-year offshore RMB-dominated bonds, making it the first non-financial enterprise in China to issue offshore RMB-dominated bonds.

In addition to the two existing cooperation programs, a third intergovernmental project, this time to be located in western China, is expected to be formally launched during Xi's visit.

The new project, viewed as "a strategic cooperation project between the two countries," aims to promote modern connectivity and the modern services industry in China's vast western region by lowering costs for investment and business there.

China is now Singapore's No.1 trading partner while Singapore is the largest investment source for China. Even so, the two countries are looking forward to upgrading their bilateral free trade agreement, which has been in existence since October 2008.

PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGES

According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, ethnic Chinese account for 74.3 percent of the country's total population as of 2014, which not only makes cultural links between Singapore and China natural, but also suggests there is great potential in people-to-people exchanges.

Singapore's newspaper The Straits Times said that during his visit in the city-state, Xi will join his Singaporean counterpart Tan in hosting the official opening ceremony of a Chinese cultural center, a more than 200-million-yuan (32-million-dollar) project initiated in 2013 to enhance exchanges in arts and culture.

Xi, in his meeting with Tan in July, said that he looks forward to signing a memorandum of understanding with Singapore to boost a new round of educational exchanges and cooperation.

Known as the garden city worldwide, Singapore has been a destination for Chinese tourists.

Acknowledging the huge potential in the Chinese market, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recently sealed a cooperation deal with leading Chinese digital and mobile services companies to offer Chinese visitors a comprehensive suite of travel services.

Under the agreement, the STB will curate and distribute information on Singapore's tourism over the next two to three years and provide real-time location-based services to Chinese tourists via mobile devices.

The latest figures show that a total of 1.7 million Chinese tourists visited Singapore and contributed 2.6 billion Singaporean dollars (1.87 billion dollars) to the country in 2014, making China the second-largest contributor to international visitor arrivals in Singapore.

The number of Chinese visitors continued to increase by 19 percent year-on-year between January and August this year.

With great potential for future cooperation, China and Singapore are expected to take Xi's visit as an opportunity to raise their relations to a new level that will not only set an example for China-ASEAN cooperation, but also make greater contributions to regional development and prosperity. Enditem

Editor's note:

Chinese President Xi Jinping in currently on his first state visit to Vietnam and Singapore on Nov. 5-7 in a trip set to open up new prospects for China's relations both with the two countries and with Southeast Asia as a whole.

Xinhua is wiring a series of in-depth stories about the two-nation Asia tour, China-Vietnam and China-Singapore ties, and Beijing's neighborhood and overall foreign policy.

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Related:

Interview: Xi's visit to deepen mutually beneficial ties with Singapore, expert says

SINGAPORE, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- The relationship between China and Singapore is mutually beneficial, and Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to Singapore will definitely deepen their ties, an expert in Singapore has said.

The relations between China and Singapore have evolved to such an extent that it is time for both countries to focus on more strategic cooperation, not only in economy, but also in other areas, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.

China and Singapore forged diplomatic relations in 1990, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of formal ties. "Over the past years, I think the relationship between China and Singapore is extremely mutually beneficial," said Oh in an interview with Xinhua prior to Xi's state visit to Singapore on Friday and Saturday.

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