SINGAPORE: China’s Belt and Road initiative is a way for China to grow ties with the rest of the world in a "constructive" way, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (Jul 14).
Speaking at a dialogue at the annual Business China Awards industry conference, Mr Lee addressed concerns that the initiative had prompted unease over China’s growing influence.
“(China’s) influence is growing, it will have to be accommodated in the global system," he said to about 700 business and community leaders from China and Singapore. "The question is how, and whether this will be a stable, smooth adjustment, or a troubled and destabilising one."
“And I think Belt and Road initiative is the way to do it in a stable, smooth way - linking up with the countries around the region with infrastructure projects, with connectivity, financial linkages, people linkages - in a way which enables the region to benefit from China’s prosperity.”
Building on the ancient overland Silk Road economic belt connecting China to Europe and the Maritime Silk Road connecting Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the Belt and Road initiative is aimed at facilitating trade and investment flows between China and other countries by investing in infrastructure.
Mr Lee was also asked about relations between Singapore, the United States and China, and how each of the superpowers perceived Singapore's bilateral ties with the other country.
He said Singapore’s relationship with America is one of “friendly cooperation” and that Singapore is a “security cooperation partner” rather than an ally of the US.
“(The US) may not be as overwhelmingly dominant as before, economically, but they remain a superpower, and they continue to have a significant contribution to make in the region,” he said.
CHINA'S GROWTH IS POSITIVE FOR THE REGION: PM LEE
Meanwhile, Mr Lee said Singapore sees China’s growth and prosperity as positive for the region, because a China that is “unstable and poor” can cause “a lot of trouble for Southeast Asia and the world”.
He said “it’s far better that China be strong, confident, cooperating with the world” than for China to be “turned inwards on itself or to be at odds with the world”.
Most importantly, Mr Lee said Singapore has to take a “consistent position” with both superpowers.
“It’s important we know what our basic positioning is, then we can try to help other countries understand,” he said.
While there will be different perspectives, Mr Lee said he thinks Singapore is taking the right position, and that foreign policy establishments will “appreciate where we stand even though they wish we be tilted one way or the other”.