Singapore, China venture looks west

Singapore, China venture looks west
Graphic of Singapore's current and potential future projects in China

How about a China-Singapore modern services demonstration zone in Chongqing? A joint international financial city in Cheng-du? Or a Silk Road Economic Belt free trade zone in Xi'an?

These are among the key initiatives put forward by western Chinese cities vying to be picked as the site of a proposed third government-to-government project between Singapore and China.

They were believed to have been presented at closed-door sessions to Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing and a Singapore delegation during their Feb 1-3 visit to China.

Both countries have been studying the feasibility of a joint venture in China's western region after Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli broached the idea in 2013.

But not much has been revealed publicly about the project except for the theme of "modern connectivity and modern services" and for three criteria - that it should suit China's developmental needs, break new ground and be commercially viable.

The Straits Times got a glimpse of the cities' proposals, which tend to converge in areas of financial cooperation, logistics and information technology, reflecting the project's theme.

Also, all three cities have expressed a desire to tap Changi Airport's expertise in developing their aviation sectors.

For example, the Sichuan provincial government's proposal - drafted on behalf of its capital city Chengdu - said the construction of its new airport would be modelled on an upgraded version of Changi Airport.

It will be part of an international aviation hub, which in turn is one of six initiatives proposed in Chengdu.

One is an international financial cooperation pilot zone, which features a China-Singapore international financial city" as a base for Singapore and South-east Asian financial institutions and their regional headquarters.

Sichuan has specified a 167 sq km collaboration area - about one fifth of Singapore's size - which will include the 10 sq km Singapore-Sichuan Hi-Tech Innovation Park.

On its part, Chongqing - a centrally-directed municipality - has set aside a smaller cooperation area of about 20 sq km, with the 10 sq km Longsheng district identified as the core area.

Its proposal identifies three key themes - modern logistics, financial settlement and big data - supported by four key initiatives.

A China-Singapore modern services demonstration zone proposed in the Airport and Cuntan Bonded Zones will develop a new airport city by leaning on Singapore's maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) expertise.

The Shaanxi government's proposal for its capital city Xi'an is anchored on the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) - an initiative by President Xi Jinping to revive an ancient trading route between China and Europe.

For instance, it has suggested an SREB free trade zone, international financial centre and big data centre.

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