China to enhance ties with Singapore

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean meeting China's Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.

China pledges to work closely with Singapore and further facilitate the construction of the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City, projects that represent a high level of bilateral cooperation, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday during a meeting with visiting Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Li said he hopes the two sides will cooperate to expand domestic demand and boost the development of the nation's central and western regions.

Teo said Singapore hopes the two countries can learn from each other's development experiences and lift the ties to a new level.

Teo is scheduled to co-chair the 14th China-Singapore Joint Steering Council Meeting for the industrial park with his Chinese counterpart, Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province, on Friday.

Signed by the two countries in 1994, the agreement to build the industrial park is a successful example of China learning Singapore's established model for industrial development. The pilot zone now sees 30 per cent annual average growth in the key economic indicators, ranking second among national development zones in the comprehensive development index.

The Singaporean model was strictly followed, and it has proven to be crucial to the park's development, according to Yang Zhiping, director of the park's administrative committee.

In addition to borrowing advanced experiences, the park's Singaporean-built electrical and wastewater systems also made it a prime choice for companies engaged in industries requiring high levels of water or power consumption, given that reliable high-volume utilities were not easy to find in the country, according to Doug Guthrie, professor of international business at George Washington University.

Guthrie went to Suzhou on a trade tour with the mayor of Washington and other city officials, and said he came away very impressed.

The park is also a remarkable example of the wisdom of the Chinese government, particularly the public-private partnerships and long-term strategic planning, Guthrie said.

"The provincial government officials recognized that foreign direct investment would be critical to the region's success. But first, it was essential that the area offer prospective investors a tangible competitive advantage over other regions in the form of an innovative and agile industrial park," Guthrie wrote in an article published on Forbes' website on Monday.

With a total jurisdiction area of 288 sq km, the park has been developed into a comprehensive facility with all the functions of a city.

It has also begun to "export" its brand and experiences to help other areas grow. It has launched joint projects with Nantong and Suqian, two cities in Jiangsu province, and cities in other provinces, Yang said.

"This is a very good way to progress together because people can learn the management experience of Singapore here at SIP without going abroad," he said.

China used to follow Singapore's model, but now China's fast growth and great potential offer sufficient space for future cooperation between the two countries and more opportunities to learn from each other, according to Song Yinghui, an expert on Singaporean studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"From cooperation in the earlier stage to the SIP and Tianjin Eco-City, the process has witnessed the deepening of bilateral cooperation, not only in the industrial and economic areas, as well as more focus on sustainable development, such as environmental protection and resource-saving ," she said.

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