At the invitation of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Singapore and attended the East Asian leader's meetings between November 18 and 22. It is the first visit by a Chinese Premier to Singapore in eight years, and Wen's visit will strengthen friendly, bilateral relations between the two countries. It will deepen the China-ASEAN strategic partnership, and promote cooperation within East Asia.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong once said, "Singapore hopes to open a window of communication with China and the entire world." Singapore holds a strategic international position and integrates Eastern culture with Western culture. It is familiar with both China and the Western world. Lee forecasted China's rise in the 1960s and 1970s; and sent a delegation to the country in the 1970s. In 1978, he received a visit from Comrade Deng Xiaoping. In 1990, Lee encouraged diplomatic relations between the two countries. Right now, China is striving for peaceful development using "win-win" methods. Its mission to "build a harmonious world" and a "harmonious society" has gained the attention of the international community. Undoubtedly, Singapore can promote the Chinese concept of harmony to Western society, and even throughout the world.
Singapore is also an important "window" for the international community to participate in and promote economic cooperation with China. It acts as a model of cooperation with China. When China first began its reform and opening up, Singapore grabbed this opportunity and provided much-needed resources for China's modernization. In the 1990s, Singapore introduced the "Suzhou Industrial Park" model into China as operations and management experience to the country.
Since the beginning of this century, Singapore has been instrumental in facilitating China's economic take-off: Singapore proposed the new "ecological city" cooperation model and provided useful experience to Chinese enterprises building a resource-saving and environmentally friendly society. To help Chinese enterprises to walk out of the country, the Temasek Investment Company exchanged experiences with the China Investment Corporation. To collaborate on western China's development and revitalize northeastern and central China, Singapore set up Economic and Trade Cooperation Councils in several regions including Liaoning, Shandong, Tianjin, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Sichuan. It also invested in the port off of Dalian; established a consulate in Chengdu; and participated in both the Nanning Expo and Central China Exposition.
Singapore is also an important window for China to participate in international affairs and regional cooperation. It advocates for the integration of East Asia and is willing to serve as the "link" between China and Southeast Asia. The new bilateral free trade zone, currently under negotiation, will help Chinese commodities access the Southeast Asian market. Singapore is building a regional and trans-regional cooperative framework; promoting "open East Asian cooperation;" and holding several Asian security conferences. It has also advocated the establishment of trans-regional cooperation mechanisms, such as the ASEM, East Asia - Latin America Forum and the Asia – Middle East Dialogue, that have been useful for international communication.
Premier Wen's visit will open the "window of opportunity" for a new collaboration between the two countries. The role of Singapore as the bridges between China and Southeast Asia and the entire world will be further enhanced. At present, the two countries are discussing two ways of developing China-ASEAN strategic partnership: the construction of the "Nanning - Singapore corridor" and pan-North Bay economic cooperation. China also sees Singapore as a platform for exchanges with the international community. For example, by participating in the Singapore-initiated Asian security meeting, ASEM, East Asia - Latin America Forum, and the Asia - Middle East Dialogue, China will be able to further develop its cooperation with foreign countries.
(The author Zhang Xuegang is deputy research fellow with China Institute of Contemporary International Relations)