Singapore-China ties have ‘good foundation’

Singapore-China ties have ‘good foundation’
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Xi Jinping meet in Hamburg. Photo: MCI
Published: 5:00 PM, July 11, 2017
Updated: 8:39 PM, July 11, 2017

MUNICH — Asked if last Friday’s (July 7) meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping signified that bilateral ties were back to normal, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore is “not at odds” with China, and both countries enjoy a wide range of cooperation. 

“I think China finds it useful also to be friendly with Singapore. So that’s a good basis on which to work,” he told the Singapore media on Monday as he wrapped up his visit to Germany.

Singapore and China have a “broad relationship” and issues surface from time to time. Both sides deal with them in a mature way and move ahead, he said. 

At an early National Day celebration with Singaporeans living in Germany on Sunday, Mr Lee spoke about meeting world leaders such as Mr Xi, United States President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. 

He described them as “friends and connections Singapore has”, adding that the meetings are not only about further collaborations but also “a signal to both sides and to the world that relations are in good order and we’re moving ahead”. 

In his wrap-up interview, he also noted that as China becomes more influential, “we have to consider how we can develop our relationship with China”. 

Likewise, if there is a new government in the US, Singapore has to “consider what that means for the world”, said Mr Lee, while commenting on the role of small states. Singapore’s foreign policy is generally in the right direction, although adjustments have to be made “because the world is not static”, he added. 

Many exchanges and visits take place between Singaporean and Chinese officials, said Mr Lee. For instance, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam called on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Summer Davos in Dalian.

Mr Tharman conveyed Mr Lee’s invitation for Premier Li to make an official visit to Singapore, which he accepted.

Bilateral ties were in the spotlight in the past year, with the Chinese media carrying articles criticising Singapore for not siding more with China on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

In November, nine Singapore armoured vehicles were detained in Hong Kong. They have since been returned.