May 16, 2023
SHANGHAI – Singapore and Shanghai’s relationship can be a vanguard of the new partnership between the island state and China, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong told Shanghai party chief Chen Jining on Monday.
Since the Chinese financial hub has always been at the forefront of China’s reform and opening-up campaign, the collaborative relationship between Singapore and Shanghai can be a “pathfinder for more exciting, more ground-breaking projects”, said Mr Wong.
This was his first meeting with Mr Chen since becoming deputy prime minister, and since Mr Chen was promoted to Shanghai’s top position.
With China reopening its borders after three years of Covid-19, Singapore’s leaders have wasted no time in making trips here to renew ties in person and to see the country’s development.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan came in February, followed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late March on his first trip since 2019.
While here, PM Lee met President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang as the two countries announced they would upgrade bilateral relations to an “all-round, high-quality, future-oriented partnership”.
Mr Wong’s trip would have been timed to shortly follow PM Lee’s visit and the improved ties, as he seeks to build rapport with China’s new leadership as Singapore’s next prime minister.
He was appointed deputy prime minister in June 2022 in preparation for the role, and will meet Premier Li Qiang and Executive Vice-Premier Ding Xuexiang in Beijing. Both Mr Li and Mr Ding were promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee – the apex of power – in March this year.
In his meeting with the Shanghai party chief on Monday, Mr Wong said Singapore values the comprehensive collaborations with Shanghai and noted that a record 15 deals were signed in April when Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng was in Singapore for the 4th Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council.
The agreements covered healthcare, financial services and the digital economy. Trade between Singapore and Shanghai grew by 8 per cent in 2022 from the year before despite the pandemic, reaching nearly $20 billion.
Mr Wong had co-chaired two of those meetings previously, and handed the reins to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong at the recent conclave.
Mr Chen, who was elevated to the 24-member Politburo comprising the country’s top leaders at the Communist Party of China’s twice-a-decade congress in October 2022, was named soon after to take over from Mr Li Qiang in Shanghai.
He is among a new cohort of technocrats whom President Xi is counting on to help steer China’s technological and economic drive and to bring new thinking into solving the country’s problems.
Mr Chen, who was previously Beijing mayor, is an environmental scientist with a PhD from Imperial College London.
He told Mr Wong that Singapore is a very important partner for China.
President Xi has described Singapore as having the “most in-depth involvement in China’s reform and opening up”, he said, pledging to promote the new upgraded bilateral partnership.
While in Shanghai, DPM Wong also visited electric carmaker Nio to see the company’s developments in next-generation battery technology.
The Shanghai-based carmaker is building a research and development centre in Singapore, where it will study autonomous driving and artificial intelligence.