SINGAPORE: The common interest of Singapore and China in building a peaceful and growing region is much greater than any occasional difference of views, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Wednesday (May 24).
He described the bilateral relationship as a broad and longstanding one, and highlighted the three government-to-government projects – in Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing – as examples of how Singapore has supported China’s developmental priorities at key stages.
Mr Teo added that both sides share similar views on most issues, working well together to advance those common interests.
“But even among close neighbours and friends, there may be different perspectives on some issues, given that countries are of different sizes, have different histories, vulnerabilities and geographical location,” he said.
Mr Teo was speaking at the 20th anniversary celebration of the East Asian Institute at Shangri-La Hotel, where he also shared views on international relations in the East Asian region as well as China’s economic and social development.
On Singapore-China relations, Mr Teo said: “The fundamental position of our two countries (is) that we share a common interest in the peaceful growth and development of our two countries and the region remains the same.
“Our common interest in building a peaceful and growing region is much greater than any occasional differences of views. Singapore will continue to be a strong and principled supporter of China’s peaceful development and constructive engagement in the region."
Mr Teo's comments come amid reports suggesting that bilateral relations are still strained, with some observers noting that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was not present at last week's Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Teo pointed out recent high-level exchanges between Singapore and China, such as the 13th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation in Beijing, which he co-chaired, and the 6th Singapore-China Forum on Leadership here in Singapore.
"We had a wide-ranging exchange of views on issues of common interest between our two countries, he said. "Such dialogues reflect the high level of mutual trust between our countries, and our mutual desire to learn from the experiences of each other. It is a unique dialogue for both countries."
EAST ASIA IN TRANSITION
In his wide-ranging speech, Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, spoke about how East Asia is going through another period of transition and change.
An "increasingly provocative" North Korea has the "greatest potential for disrupting peace and stability", not just on the Korean Peninsula, but the whole region, said Mr Teo.
Hong Kong has a new leader in Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam, and the territory will soon mark 20 years as a Special Administrative Region, since its return to China from Britain.
Cross-strait relations have become more complicated as the politics in Taiwan become more complex, said Mr Teo, adding that Singapore has always maintained its One China policy.
“As an old friend of both sides, we have hosted the 1993 Wang-Koo talks and the 2015 Xi-Ma meeting and will continue to support the peaceful and stable development of cross-strait relations,” he said.
Mr Teo also noted that the Communist Party of China is gearing up for leadership changes in this year's National Congress, and China itself is undergoing rapidly changing demographic, economic and social changes.
And as China grows in economic and military weight, Mr Teo said he is “optimistic” about the country’s ability to reinvent itself and play a greater leadership role both within the region and globally.
“The East Asian story is an exciting and dynamic one, continuing to unfold. China is a key player in the story, and Singapore is a part of this great drama,” he concluded.