SPEECH BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT THE STATE BANQUET HOSTED IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, HIS EXCELLENCY XI JINPING ON 6 NOVEMBER 2015
Your Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
Mdm Peng Liyuan
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is with great pleasure that my wife and I welcome Your Excellency President Xi, Mdm Peng and members of your delegation to Singapore. My previous two meetings with Your Excellency were both in China. The first was in August 2014 at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, where we agreed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries with an exchange of State Visits in 2015. The second was in July this year when I made a State Visit to Beijing at Your Excellency’s invitation. My wife and I were touched by the warm hospitality extended to us and we are delighted to have the opportunity to reciprocate by hosting Your Excellency and Mdm Peng in Singapore.
Your Excellency is an old friend of Singapore. Over the years, you have made multiple visits to our country in your previous capacities, and contributed to the healthy growth in our bilateral relations. Your Excellency last visited Singapore in 2010 as Vice President to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations.
It is therefore fitting that Your Excellency is back in Singapore again as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. I am confident that Your Excellency’s visit will raise our bilateral cooperation to new heights.
2015 is a special year for Singapore. We are celebrating our 50th year of independence as well as the 25th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations. When Singapore became independent in 1965, nobody expected that we would survive, much less succeed. Similarly, when we established diplomatic relations with China in 1990, nobody could have predicted that our friendship and cooperation would have grown so rapidly and in such a broad and deep manner. This can be attributed to the historical and cultural linkages between our two peoples, including our pioneer generation of leaders. In a demonstration of political mutual trust, Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited China in 1976 and Mr Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore in 1978, even before our two countries established diplomatic relations. To this day, mutual respect and political trust between our two countries remain high, and high-level exchanges continue to be frequent.
Over the span of 25 years, our bilateral cooperation has flourished. Our first flagship cooperation project, the Suzhou Industrial Park, was launched in 1994 when China was undergoing economic reform. In 2007, we launched the Tianjin Eco-city to support China’s focus on sustainable urbanisation. Over the years, bilateral cooperation has moved beyond the traditional areas of trade and commerce to new areas such as social governance, human resource cooperation, sustainable development, financial cooperation and food safety. At the invitation of China, our countries have agreed to launch a third Government-to-Government (G-to-G) project in China’s Western Region. We are confident that with the appropriate policy innovations and implementation principles, and strong support and commitment from both sides, the third G-to-G project will support Your Excellency’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative as well as provide a springboard to propel our bilateral ties to a new level in the next 25 years.
Singapore is pleased to have been able to participate in modest ways in the modern economic development of China. In the last three decades, China has unlocked unprecedented levels of growth and development in the country and lifted millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Today, Your Excellency is leading the Chinese people into a new era of progress and prosperity through “Comprehensively Deepening Reforms”. This is a remarkable endeavour and I am confident that China will continue to succeed under your leadership.
Singapore’s confidence in China’s future is best reflected in the continuous flow of our investments into China. Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor for the last two years while China has been Singapore’s largest trading partner since 2013. Singapore was the first country in Asia to launch negotiations with China for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. Since our FTA with China came into force in January 2009, bilateral trade and investments have increased by over 160% and 162% respectively. It is therefore fitting that as we commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations, our countries have agreed to launch a substantive upgrade of the China-Singapore FTA to prepare for the next stage of our economic cooperation. The China-Singapore FTA upgrade will also serve as a pathfinder for our countries’ participation in regional economic frameworks such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement as well as the ASEAN-China FTA upgrade.
Singapore has always supported China’s peaceful role in the regional architecture and global initiatives. Singapore was one of the first countries to support China’s initiative to establish an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a platform to meet the need for infrastructural development and capital in the region. Singapore also welcomes China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative as it fosters greater regional cooperation and complements ASEAN’s existing initiatives, including the development of an ASEAN Economic Community and the Masterplan for ASEAN Connectivity. As the current Country Coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, Singapore looks forward to working with all ASEAN countries and China to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations next year. We thank Your Excellency for China’s consistent support for ASEAN’s integration efforts and ASEAN centrality in the region’s architecture.
Our wide ranging cooperation evolves with our changing developmental priorities and capabilities. What our two countries share is a unique “All-Round Partnership that Progresses with the Times”. I am therefore pleased that our two governments will be issuing a Joint Statement on our partnership to highlight our shared goals and aspirations for future bilateral cooperation. On behalf of all Singaporeans, I look forward to working closely with Your Excellency and all present this evening towards the Golden Jubilee of Singapore-China relations in 2040.
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I ask you to rise and join me in a toast:
- To the good health and happiness of President Xi Jinping and Mdm Peng Liyuan;
- To the progress and prosperity of the people of The People’s Republic of China
- To the enduring friendship between Singapore and China.