March 30, 2023
BEIJING – There is potential for Singapore and Guangdong, China’s biggest provincial economy and a manufacturing powerhouse, to deepen cooperation, the leaders of both sides agreed on Wednesday.
This includes cooperation in the Greater Bay Area – encompassing Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau – which has been positioned as the country’s leading tech and finance hub.
In particular, Guangdong will continue to look to Singapore for ideas on urban planning and economic development, as well as in the shipping, financial and manufacturing industries, Guangdong party secretary Huang Kunming said in a meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Guangzhou.
This is as the southern Chinese province continues to move towards what Mr Huang calls “high-quality development”, including a commitment to solving “the problem of imbalance”.
Guangdong’s economy, valued at 12.8 trillion yuan (S$2.47 trillion) in 2022, is the largest in all of China. But its gross domestic product grew only 1.9 per cent last year, lower than Fujian’s and Jiangxi’s 4.7 per cent, the highest annual growth rate in the country.
Its leaders have also identified an urban-rural divide as the biggest hurdle holding back Guangdong’s development.
In remarks during an official meeting, PM Lee said that it has been nearly a decade since he last visited Guangdong and that this trip has given him a good sense of its developments and changes.
“Our relations with China overall are very good, and we would like – now that China has completed its 20th Party Congress and Lianghui, and is pushing forward with new policies to the next phase – to take our relations to the next level.”
China in 2022 held its twice-a-decade political meeting, where President Xi Jinping secured a third term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China and announced a new leadership team.
This year’s Lianghui, China’s annual parliamentary meetings, formally confirmed the men’s positions, including former Shanghai party chief Li Qiang as premier.
PM Lee, whose delegation members included Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, said that he had brought along “a great team”.
He added: “And we look forward to having substantial outcomes from our discussions of the officials preparing for this trip to be delivered.”
PM Lee is slated to meet President Xi on Friday and Premier Li on Saturday.
Mr Huang, formerly China’s propaganda chief who took office as Guangdong’s top official last October, said that the province’s joint projects with Singapore have been “truly impressive”.
These include the Guangzhou Knowledge City, a development project focusing on science and technological innovation, and the Smart City Initiative in Shenzhen, which seeks to promote digital innovation, smart city cooperation and bilateral exchanges.
Leaders from Singapore also regularly meet via the Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council, which is co-chaired by Mr Ong and Guangdong Governor Wang Weizhong.
In their meeting, PM Lee and Mr Huang reaffirmed the close and multi-faceted ties between Singapore and Guangdong.
PM Lee is in the middle of a six-day visit to China.
He arrived in Boao, in Hainan province, on Wednesday afternoon, where he was greeted by Vice-Governor Chen Huaiyu.
PM Lee is expected to speak at the Boao Forum For Asia on Thursday. Chinese Premier Li and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will also attend the event.