S’pore upgrades partnership, reaffirms close ties with China during official PM visit

02/04/2023

With the Covid-19 pandemic firmly behind us, our Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong made an official visit to China last week (Mar 27 to Apr 1) for the first time in nearly four years.

Accompanying our PM on the whirlwind trip were Mrs Lee, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health Mr Ong Ye Kung, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Ms Sim Ann, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Law Ms Rahayu Mahzam and other government officials. 

Six days, three cities, and an elevated friendship 

Beginning the trip in Guangzhou, PM Lee and his delegation visited the WeRide Headquarters and the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City (CSGKC), a state-level bilateral project and one of several Government-to-Government projects between Singapore and China. 

Besides engaging businesses and government officials, PM Lee and our ministers also took time to catch up with fellow Singaporeans based in Guangzhou. 

“It’s a joy to reconnect with them and know that they are doing well miles away from home,” shared PM Lee in a Facebook post. 

Next, jetting over to the tropical island of Hainan, PM Lee delivered a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference. 

During the conference, PM Lee spoke about how Asia can realise its potential by maintaining its stability and deepening its cooperation with China. 

Finally arriving in Beijing to wrap up the trip, PM Lee met with President Xi Jinping twice, once at the Great Hall of the People. 

It was a monumental meeting which saw our bilateral relations with China upgraded to an “All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership”. 

As PM Lee noted, this milestone between China and Singapore reaffirms our commitment to continue broadening cooperation, seizing new opportunities, and tackling the challenges of tomorrow. 

Besides newly elevated ties, the trip has resulted in the substantive conclusion of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) Subsequent Negotiations. 

For Singaporean businesses looking to expand into China, the upgraded CSFTA is welcomed news. Not only does it improve market access, it will also provide for more business-friendly, liberal and transparent rules. 

As a result of the expanded CSFTA, Singapore can look forward to deepening its cooperation with China, including in areas such as trade and investment, green and digital, food security, financial sector, connectivity, and people-to-people exchanges, noted PM Lee. 

Deepening our bilateral ties with China 

Since Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore in 1978, our relationship with China has gone from strength to strength, anchored by regular high-level exchanges and robust economic ties.

In fact, it was only last month when Minister Balakrishnan visited Beijing to reaffirm the longstanding relations and discuss how both countries can deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest. 

And speaking in an interview with China Central Television, PM Lee once again reiterated the close bilateral cooperation we share with China. 

“I think we have very good relations… that there is trust and mutual understanding. We work with one another, and we have been able to get very substantive projects going.”

Over the six-day visit, the good relations between China and Singapore was further reinforced through meetings with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Qiang and many other high-ranking officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

For small countries such as Singapore, continuing with our friendly and firm style of diplomacy with countries big or small is paramount to our survival. 

While not every country views China’s rise on the world stage benevolently, Singapore will continue to welcome China’s growing engagement with ASEAN and see its growth and prosperity as an economic opportunity. 

Since 2013, Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor, while China remains our largest trading partner. 

As PM Lee shared, this trip has set a refreshed, positive and forward-looking trajectory for our bilateral relations with China.

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Photo Source: Lee Hsien Loong via Facebook