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Maturing relations have promising prospects

By Hong Xiaoyong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-30 08:17

Fighting against the novel coronavirus together, China and Singapore are raising their friendly relations to new heights

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Singapore. A lot has changed because of the sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus, but not the friendly exchanges or the cooperation between the two countries.

When the pandemic was raging in China and Singapore, the two governments and peoples extended helping hands to each other and engaged in extensive mutual support. On Feb 8, the Singaporean government donated medical materials such as antiviral drugs and testing kits to China. On May 5, the Chinese government and the Red Cross Society of China contributed over 600,000 masks of various types to Singapore.

When COVID-19 first emerged and Wuhan was put in lockdown, some travelers from Hubei province were stranded in Singapore and some Singaporean citizens also faced difficulties going back home. The governments of the two countries conducted intensive communication and coordination and facilitated these people getting home in a smooth manner.

Now prevention and control measures are in place, it has become an important task to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the new situation. The two sides have expanded new ways of close coordination and cooperation, which have made positive achievements.

China and Singapore have maintained frequent high-level interactions. Letters and calls have been exchanged between President Xi Jinping and President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Vice-Premier Han Zheng and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, as well as State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, leading to consensus on cooperation in pandemic control and other areas. The cross-departmental joint meeting, led by the foreign ministries of the two countries, has effectively stepped up communication on pandemic response. Several Chinese provinces and cities have, through various channels, kept in touch and coordination with their Singaporean counterparts and thus ensured steady progress of major cooperative projects such as the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, Suzhou Industrial Park, the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative and the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City.

The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor that connects China and Singapore has played a pivotal role in stabilizing supply chains for the two countries during the pandemic. At the critical period of Singapore's anti-pandemic efforts, fruits and other foods continued to be sent from Chongqing to Singapore via the rail-ocean cold chain of the trade route. This is just a small part of the bigger story. By May, 2020, 1,892 rail-ocean international trains and ships have transported 95,000 TEU of goods, with a total value of 12.3 billion yuan ($1.8 billion). The trade corridor, with its huge capacity for boosting regional connectivity, is becoming a vital link that connects the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Although the virus has brought about many restraints to economic and trade cooperation projects, China-Singapore investment cooperation has kept a strong momentum and shown huge resilience in spite of the headwinds. In the first half of this year, Singaporean investment in China increased by 15.3 percent, keeping its position as the largest source of newly added foreign investment to China. China's direct investment in Singapore grew by 57.5 percent in the same period, making Singapore the second-largest destination for China's new investment. Such notable growth in investment cooperation reflects the strong confidence the two countries have in each other.

To facilitate travel for resuming production and work, China and Singapore, after close consultations, opened a fast track for people to travel between the two countries in early June, making Singapore the first country from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to put in place such an arrangement with China. The fast track has become the epitome of measures taken by the two to ensure pragmatic cooperation during the pandemic.

Both China and Singapore are committed to multilateralism and globalization and are opposed to protectionism. To fight against the virus, the two sides actively attended such video meetings as Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19, the special foreign ministers' meeting of ASEAN-China on COVID-19, the special meeting of ASEAN Plus Three health ministers on COVID-19 and ASEAN-China COVID-19 control meeting. At these meetings, the various parties shared their respective information and experience on pandemic control and strengthened exchanges and cooperation in order to safeguard public health and safety of the people. On June 18, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of Singapore attended the high-level special video meeting on Belt and Road Initiative cooperation hosted by China and expressed Singapore's readiness to engage in the joint implementation of the initiative.

Not long ago, in a telephone call between President Xi and Prime Minister Lee, the two leaders expressed their shared delight in seeing the achievements that had been made in the past three decades and reached an important consensus on further advancing reciprocal cooperation in the new landscape. As the Chinese saying goes, a man should become independent and mature at the age of 30. The two countries, celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, should build upon past achievements and strive to make new progress. Standing at a new starting point, the China-Singapore relationship is embracing bright prospects. The two sides will not only celebrate the anniversary in flexible and diverse ways, but also take this chance to open up new chapters of common development and prosperity.

The author is the Chinese ambassador to Singapore. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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