SINGAPORE: The multi-faceted cooperation between Singapore and China today was built on the foundations laid by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and China’s late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He said this in a written interview published by Xinhua on Saturday (Dec 29). The comments were in response to the Reform and Friendship Award Beijing conferred on the late Singapore leader earlier this month, in recognition of his long-standing support of China’s development.
The award was given as the Chinese Communist Party celebrated the 40th anniversary of China's "reform and opening up".
In the piece to Xinhua, written in Mandarin, PM Lee noted how Mr Lee’s involvement in China’s reform goes back to his first meeting with Mr Deng in 1978 in Singapore.
“Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a long-standing friend of China. He was a close observer of China and took a deep interest in its development. Over 37 years, Mr Lee visited China 33 times and witnessed firsthand China’s phenomenal growth and development,” said PM Lee, according to a transcript of his comments provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“He not only went to the major coastal cities, but also many inland provinces and historic destinations. He thus gained a better understanding of Chinese society, and of the tremendous determination of the Chinese people to transform their society and improve their lives.”
It was Mr Lee who first suggested Singapore’s first government-to-government project, the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, PM Lee wrote.
He added that this led to the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, as well as the third government-to-government project - the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative which was launched in 2015 to promote the development of China’s western region and contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative.
“All these projects were designed to complement China’s evolving development needs,” said PM Lee.
“China has made huge strides over 40 years of its reform and opening up. Mr Lee was one of the first to foresee this dramatic success, the huge difference this would make to China’s population and the world, and how Singapore could participate in and benefit from this transformation.”
The prime minister added that the award accorded to the late Mr Lee is a “strong affirmation” of his long-standing support for China’s development and friendship between both countries.
“Singapore wishes China every success in its continuing journey of reform and opening up under President Xi Jinping, and looks forward to our relations flourishing for many more years to come,” said PM Lee.