CHONGQING: Singapore and China deepened their cooperation on Friday (Jan 8) with the opening of an Administrative Bureau Office in Chongqing and a project signing to flag off their third government-to-government (G2G) project.
The initiative, called the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, aims to enhance modern connectivity and services in the southwestern Chinese city.
Chinese officials have said they hope it will have a positive effect on the government's plan to develop its vast and relatively undeveloped western region. Chongqing is one of four municipalities under the direct control of the Chinese central government. It has been one of the fastest growing cities in China since 2014, with its economy expanding 11 per cent in the first three quarters of last year.
Singapore's Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan co-chaired the first joint implementation committee meeting for the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI). This is the first high-level meeting between Singapore and Chongqing since the launch of the G2G project announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited the city-state last November.
Mr Chan and the mayor endorsed the implementation structure of the CCI, which will be led by a Deputy Prime Minister-level Joint Steering Council, overseeing two ministerial committees which involve the Chinese government at both the central and local levels, said Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
Both sides discussed potential project collaborations and the next steps for the project as well, MTI stated in a news release.
Mr Chan had called on Chongqing Party Secretary Sun Zhengchai before the meeting. Both sides agreed with the "vision, success factors, the way forward for the project, as well as how Singapore can further complement Chongqing’s development through the CCI", said MTI.
One of the items agreed on was to jointly develop a Chongqing Connectivity Masterplan to meet the city's development priorities. MTI said that through the CCI, Singapore hopes to "value-add to the development of Western China, by enhancing connectivity of Chongqing within China and with the world".
Mr Chan, along with Mr Sun and Mayor Huang also witnessed the signing of 11 MOUs that serve to strengthen collaboration between Singapore and Chongqing in four priority areas: Financial services, aviation, transport and logistics and Info-Communications Technology.
Said Minister Chan: "There are two things we seek to do well in this project, which is to lower the financing costs and to lower the logistic costs. Because if we can do this, they act as a lubricant to allow the rest of the sectors to flourish, so it's quite different in scope and in nature to Suzhou and Tianjin."
The Suzhou Industrial Park is regarded as a model of modern manufacturing based on industrial estates in Singapore, while the Tianjin Eco-city is a model for sustainable development. Both are China-Singapore government-to-government projects as well.
Mr Chan said because the Chongqing project focuses on connectivity, it is not geographically bound and Singapore will help the Chongqing government with different perspectives and process innovations. Singapore can also serve as a launchpad to raise capital for companies in Chongqing and the Western region, he added, but said no targets have been set yet.
"Our definition of success could be how much does it cost to raise funds in the West vis-a-vis the rest of China or benchmark against the coastal region," said Mr Chan." Our benchmark or KPI or success factor could be: If today, the logistical cost for every dollar of a product is say 20 cents, if we are able to have policy innovations, simplification of the rules, coordination of the processes, how much are we able to bring that 20 cents or 20 per cent down? How much closer can we get to coastal regions in China so that we can bring out the potential of Western China?"
Mr Chan's visit to Chongqing comes just days after President Xi opened the year by visiting the metropolis. The Singapore Minister said he got very positive feedback from the Chongqing government on the support President Xi has given to the project and the broader Singapore-China relationship.
Other members of the delegation to China include Minister of State for Health and Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat and Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, Dr Koh Poh Koon.