SHANGHAI: China will loan Singapore a pair of pandas for ten years to celebrate this year's 20th anniversary of the Sino-Singapore relations, a Singaporean minister said Saturday.
The promise was first made between leaders of the two countries last November.
Lee Yi Shyan, minister of state for trade, industry and manpower, said at a ceremony marking Singapore's National Pavilion Day at the ongoing Shanghai World Expo that the two countries had signed a cooperative contract on research and breeding of pandas.
Lee said Singaporean people would view the panda in the River Safari, a newly built wildlife conservation park in Singapore, in the first half of 2012, after the Chinese most beloved animal passed the adaptive phase.
"The preparation work is underway, and the panda will be delivered to Singapore in the second half next year," he said. Experts say "panda diplomacy" shows that China values its bilateral relations with Singapore.
While celebrating the National Pavilion Day at Shanghai Expo, Singapore also marks its 45th anniversary of the founding of the nation on August 9. "We are grateful to be sharing the joy of our National Day celebrations with Expo visitors," Lee said.
He said the common aspiration of building "livable" cities has deepened Sino-Singaporean cooperation in recent years, citing the joint projects of Suzhou Industrial Park in China's eastern Jiangsu Province and Tianjin Eco-City in the north. Both reflect the Expo's theme of "better city, better life."
China is the largest investment destination for Singapore, and Singapore is China's fifth largest investment destination. China is also the third largest trade partner of Singapore, and Singapore is the eighth largest trade partner of China.
Chinese immigrants settled in Singapore in the 19th century, bringing the influence of their language, culture and food, and gradually became part of Singaporean society.
Visitors can experience Singapore as a "Garden City" at a "hanging garden" -- a rooftop garden landscaped with mysterious flora and music fountains -- in the Singapore Pavilion in Zone B of the Expo Park.
The music-box-like pavilion has a theme of "urban symphony," and shows a cosmopolitan mix of residents of different ethnicities living peacefully together. The pavilion also highlights an environment-friendly design.
The Singapore Pavilion at Shanghai Expo is largest of all its pavilions at World Expos.
Saturday's ceremony also featured dances by local ethnic Chinese, Malays, Indian and Nyonya. In the evening, Singaporean singers, including A-Du and Tanya Chua, are to perform at the Expo Park.