PM Lee to meet Xi Jinping during official visit to Beijing, attends high-level summit for 1st time

PM Lee is invited by President Xi to attend the summit for the first time.

Martino Tan | April 25, 2019, 06:49 PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is in Beijing on Thursday, April 25 for a five-day official visit.

He will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the statement by the Prime Minister's Office.

At the invitation of President Xi, PM Lee will attend the second Belt and Road Forum, and deliver a speech at the High-Level Meeting on "Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future" on Friday, April 26.

What is the significance of PM's attendance?

PM Lee is attending the summit for the first time.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong attended the summit's first edition in 2017.

Then, there was speculation from South China Morning Post that Singapore was being snubbed.

This is because President Xi plays the host and he is the one who invites the leaders.

Not straightforward

But it was not as straightforward.

Three out of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members -- Singapore, Thailand and Brunei -- were not represented by their heads of government in Beijing.

This time, nearly 40 foreign heads of state, including PM Lee, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad are attending the summit.

All 10 Asean leaders will participate in a high-level meeting at Beijing's National Convention Centre and a leaders' roundtable at Yanqi Lake in the suburb of Huairou.

There appears to be a strengthening in the bilateral relations between Singapore and China, with a number of top Singapore leaders visiting China this year.

Both Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam have visited China in the past two months, while President Halimah Yacob will be in Beijing to attend the Asian Civilisation Dialogue.

Five-day official visit

It'll be a busy official trip for PM Lee.

PM Lee recently told Xinhua News Agency that Singapore hopes "to play a constructive part on financial services, on third country investments, on human resources development" for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

He believes that "Singapore is well-placed to make modest contribution".

During the five-day official visit, he will be doing the following:

On April 27, PM Lee will deliver remarks at the Leaders’ Roundtable chaired by President Xi and have bilateral meetings with other leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum.

On April 28, PM Lee and his wife will attend the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 International Horticultural Exposition hosted by President Xi and Madam Peng, and visit the Singapore Garden.

On April 28, he will meet President Xi again, and be hosted to lunch by Premier Li Keqiang.

On 29 April, PM Lee and Li will witness the signing of Memorandums of Understanding on bilateral cooperation.

Who's going?

PM Lee is accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State Koh Poh Koon, and Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad.

During PM Lee's absence, DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam will be the Acting PM from April 25 to 29.

With Heng Swee Keat promoted to DPM on May 1, this is likely to be DPM Tharman's valedictory moment as Acting PM.

Top photo from Lee Hsien Loong Facebook.