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Singapore PM aims to cement relations

By Zhou Wa | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-26 07:26

The prime minister of Singapore arrived in Beijing on Sunday for his fifth official visit to China amid high expectations from both sides that bilateral ties will be upgraded.

Premier Li Keqiang will meet Lee Hsien Loong on Monday and then host a lunch at the Great Hall of the People. It is the Singaporean leader's first visit since the new Chinese leadership debuted in March. Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Singapore in May.

"China-Singapore relations have developed very fast, although Singapore is among the Southeast Asian countries that established diplomatic ties with China rather late," said Zhang Xiaokang, former Chinese ambassador to Singapore.

"Lee's visit this time will focus on economic cooperation," she said, adding that issues including development strategies, ecology, science, technology and public management would also be highlighted.

Song Yinghui, a researcher on Southeast Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, echoed Zhang's comments, saying that closer cooperation benefited both sides.

"As an international port, Singapore's economy was affected by the world financial crisis to some degree. Cooperation with China, which showed a relatively dynamic potential for economic growth after the crisis, will help the country overcome the crisis faster," she said.

"Meanwhile, China can acquire advanced management know-how from Singapore to better develop its economy and society."

Song added that Lee's visit this time will help consolidate existing favorable relations under China's new leadership.

Lee's visit will last until next Saturday. He will also visit the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Liaoning province.

In Xinjiang, Lee will visit the cities of Urumqi, Shihezi and Kashgar for an update on local developments, while in Liaoning, he will visit Singaporean and Chinese companies.

The visits show that China and Singapore can cooperate in developing China's western regions, while re-energizing the old industrial zones in the northeast, Zhang said.

"It is rare for a Southeast Asian leader to visit Xinjiang in northwestern China, and it shows the bilateral cooperation has been expanded from the east to the west of China," Song said.

Lee's visit comes two days after Singapore's Foreign Ministry clarified remarks he made about China's territorial issues at an Asia conference in May, issuing a statement saying he had been "misreported" by the media, and that his comments were taken "completely out of context".

According to the ministry, Lee said in May that China would calculate that any gains from a non-peaceful approach to territorial disputes will have to be weighed against broader implications for its reputation and standing in the world.

Lee made the remarks when asked whether it was necessary for countries to cooperate together to "contain" China. He responded that it would not be "constructive" to do so, adding that Lee "was trying to be helpful, not stir up tensions".

Mo Jingxi contributed tothis story.

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