Singapore can be a ‘useful pathfinder’ for China: DPM Teo

Singapore can be a ‘useful pathfinder’ for China: DPM Teo

DPM Teo Chee Hean at Singapore Summit
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean with visiting professor Nanyang Technological University Nik Gowing who was moderating the Singapore Summit dialogue session on Friday (Sep 15). (Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: As China’s aspirations and clout grow overseas, Singapore can play the role of a “useful pathfinder” for the Asian superpower, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Friday evening (Sep 15).

Speaking at a question-and-answer session on the opening day of the Singapore Summit – a two-day forum attended by 500 global leaders and business chiefs - Mr Teo said Singapore has to be “realistic” when it comes to relevance to China.

“We’re not looking to be the biggest, the largest whatever it is when we engage China,” he said. “We’re almost bemused by the fact that we’re the largest source of foreign investment into China.

“Where we can play a role for China is to be a useful pathfinder. Where there are things which China wants to try, wants to experiment with, and it makes sense for us and we have some experience, we can work with China and do that.”

He cited the example of the third Government-to-Government (G2G) project between China and Singapore in Chongqing as a “good example” of that role. The initiative aims to enhance modern connectivity and services in the southwestern Chinese city.

Said DPM Teo: “Chongqing lies in a region which has got enormous potential but it’s inland and it’s got enormous logistics problems and the Chinese want to solve that. And the project that we have with China there is an integral part of the Belt and Road project and also a part of that project that they have for developing the whole Yangtze River region.”

He added that Singapore can exploit the strength of its strategic position in the middle of Southeast Asia at the cross-roads between China and India and Australasia.

Asked about concerns that Singapore could be “marginalised” by China’s Belt and Road initiative, Mr Teo stated that China has evolved from being a low-cost manufacturer, as has Singapore. “China is such a strong and growing economy and India will be too, and they can eat everybody’s lunch."

He said it’s “not just an issue of just Singapore” that could be affected, but that the country could use its size and nimbleness to its advantage.

“Herein lies where being small has its advantages, because we can change faster and move faster and we have to find new areas of competitiveness and new areas of competence in new ways of making ourselves relevant,” Mr Teo said.

Source: CNA/ly