Multilateral collaborations and shared interests:
Towards the next 30 years of China-Singapore relations

Interview with Hong Xiaoyong, Chinese Ambassador to Singapore

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by Ng Hong Kuan

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Singapore and China, where bilateral relations have grown in depth and breadth, while maintaining close-knit cooperation.

As China-Singapore ties reach a new milestone of maturity, Hong Xiaoyong, Chinese ambassador to Singapore, says: “The relations between China and Singapore have become a model of cooperation and equal regard, notwithstanding disparities in size. Such a relationship demonstrates a farsighted and strategic outlook, and sets a good example for countries to cooperate . These good relations have heartfelt support from the people of both countries; and have contributed to the prosperity and development of China, Singapore and the region. This forms a strong foundation for the next 30 years of China-Singapore relations.”

Facing an international landscape that is in flux, China has put forth a new development model of "dual circulation". Ambassador Hong says that in this model, China’s domestic economic cycle plays a leading role. However, that does not mean that China is sealing itself off from the world, nor does it mean that China will be pulling back on external investment and trade. Rather, China will be placing more emphasis on developing the potential of domestic demand, and making better use of the Chinese and international markets and their respective resources, so as to better connect these markets and realise a stronger and more sustainable form of high-quality development. In other words, China will continue to bring the dividends of its development and market to Singapore and other regional countries, in order to grow and prosper together.

Over the past 30 years, Singapore and China have established three government-to-government cooperation projects, a national-level cooperation project, a bilateral cooperation joint council helmed by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and China’s Vice Premier, and eight province- and municipality-level trade committees. Ambassador Hong believes that the next phase of China-Singapore relations will see broader and deeper third-party cooperation and tap on the potential of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor. Other future endeavours include connecting the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, and establishing Singapore and Chongqing as dual hubs. This will create an even stronger foundation for high-quality cooperation between the two countries in the post-pandemic world.

China-Singapore cooperation has evolved from bilateral partnerships to multilateral collaborations. Now, in response to the threat of COVID-19, both countries see an opportunity to work together for the greater good.

Ambassador Hong says that during critical moments in the fight against COVID-19, both countries offered each other resources, and ensured that their respective citizens residing abroad in Singapore and China are taken care of. A “fast lane” corridor has been established for essential personnel travelling between the two countries, and the Land-Sea Trade Corridor has demonstrated its potential for guaranteeing supply chain stability. Both countries will also strengthen cooperation on vaccine development and deployment and have mutually agreed to include public health cooperation in the 2020 agenda of the China-Singapore Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation.

COVID-19 appeared abruptly, and still has the world in its grip; as countries all over the globe battle this common threat, the awareness that our destinies are interlinked has also grown more acute. Unity and cooperation are humanity’s most effective weapons in the battle against the pandemic, and also against other public health crises, climate change and myriad global challenges.

Hong Xiaoyong became China’s ambassador to Singapore in 2018, but his connection to Singapore goes back further. From 2007 to 2008, he was Minister Counsellor in Chinese embassy in Singapore. Ambassador Hong witnessed the birth of Business China. He says that over the past 13 years, Business China has been dedicated in creating a Chinese platform for interactions, to nurture bilingual and bicultural Singaporeans. It has made outstanding contributions to promoting business and people-to-people exchanges between Singapore and China, and to connecting China with diverse cultures and economies.

China is vast in size and contains many complexities. Singapore, though small, is also a complex multiracial and multicultural society. The people of both countries need to understand each other better, in order to see the real picture. Ambassador Hong says that in the age of new media, with its huge volumes of competing information, China and Singapore must fortify mutual trust and cooperation. This friendship between the two countries, he added, will be nurtured in the future by the young generation. The Chinese embassy in Singapore hopes to work with Business China and other likeminded parties to continue promoting exchanges between the youths of both countries, as this will be of great significance to the long-term stable development of China-Singapore relations.