Singapore, China mark 20 years of ties in Suzhou

There is a "special significance" to holding high-level meetings between Singapore and China this year at Suzhou city because the success of the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) is testament to the positive collaborations between the two sides over the years, Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said.

The SIP, the first government- to-government project set up in 1994, and Tianjin Eco-City, a government-led project that was launched in 2008, both showcase the pioneering spirit and innovation that have marked Sino-Singapore bilateral ties and injected vitality into them, he added.

Mr Zhang was speaking at a welcome dinner in Suzhou last night, ahead of today's meeting of the 11th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), the highest- level mechanism for bilateral cooperation. He co-chairs the JCBC with Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

"It is of special significance to us to hold the JCBC in Suzhou. It is the best commemorative event for the 20th anniversary of the SIP," Mr Zhang said at the dinner attended by both Chinese and Singapore officials and businessmen.

While the SIP occupies just 3.3 per cent of Suzhou's land and holds 7.2 per cent of its population, it generates 15 per cent of the city's economic growth and 20 per cent of the city's trade, he pointed out.

The park was designed to allow Singapore to share its industrialisation experiences with China.

DPM Teo noted the SIP's "solid international reputation as a modern industrial park" that has been replicated across China, for instance, in the western Xinjiang region and eastern Anhui province.

He also touched on the "close and substantive" relationship between the two states, which has seen Singapore become China's largest foreign investor and China turn into Singapore's largest trading partner.

"This is a reflection of Singapore's confidence in China's continued growth and future prospects. Our wide-ranging cooperation has evolved with China's developmental needs," Mr Teo said in his toast at the dinner.

Both leaders later attended a cultural performance at the Suzhou Cultural and Arts Centre to mark the SIP's 20th anniversary.

At their meeting earlier in the day, Mr Zhang touched on a proposed third government-to-government project that is expected to be located in one of three western cities: Chongqing, Chengdu or Xi'an.

Elaborating publicly for the first time on the project that he suggested to Singapore in October last year, he said that such a project in western China would be closely connected with the country's push to develop a "21st-century Maritime Silk Route" - a major strategy that Beijing is already working on.

Proposed by President Xi Jinping last year, it is intended to revive a trade route running from China through South-east Asia and the Indian Ocean to Europe.

"In whichever area Singapore chooses, whether it is modern connectivity or modern services, this will be a new platform of cooperation for our two countries," Mr Zhang added.

Apart from the JCBC meeting, Mr Teo is scheduled to co-chair the meetings of the 16th China-Singapore SIP Joint Steering Council and the Seventh Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Joint Steering Council today. He leaves for Beijing tomorrow.

This article was first published on Oct 27, 2014.
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