Despite size difference, S'pore & China share common challenges: Heng Swee Keat

Both countries want to uplift the lives of their peoples.

Kayla Wong | December 28, 2021, 01:19 PM

Despite differences in size and socio-economic circumstances, Singapore and China face many common challenges, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in an op-ed that was published on both Lianhe Zaobao and ThinkChina.

Singapore and China both want to uplift lives of their peoples

And so, they can learn from each other, the Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies said, adding that both countries share the same goal to uplift the lives of their peoples.

The op-ed was written for the occasion of the 17th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), the highest-level bilateral cooperation platform which Heng is co-chairing along with China's Vice Premier Han Zheng.

Both leaders are set to meet virtually tomorrow (Dec. 29). Besides discussing how the two countries can emerge as stronger economies and socities, they will also be announcing the name of the first giant panda cub born to Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

Both countries face ageing populations

Elaborating on the common challenges faced, Heng said one example is the ageing populations in both countries.

"We can broaden our collaboration to include how we can better care for and enable our seniors to stay active and healthy," he said.

In addition, they can also "revitalise exchanges on social policies and governance", including how to better "embrace diversity, remain open to the world, and keep social mobility alive", he added.

Such exchanges, he said, are not just between officials, but also between business leaders, scientists, students, and people from different parts of society.

The movement of people, however, is key to these exchanges.

While the pandemic has necessitated tight border controls to contain the spread of the virus, and as a result, put on hold the frequency of such exchanges, Singapore is exploring greater resumption of air connectivity, starting with Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs), Heng said.

He added that Singapore hopes to restore air connectivity with key aviation partners in a safe manner, and that the country hopes to work with China to achieve this, including the mutual recognition of digital Covid-19 health certificates.

Heng further said that the exchange of youths are a priority when cross-border travel eventually resumes.

"We must continue to expose them to the rich historical and cultural contexts of our two countries and the region, and develop in them a more global outlook," he said.

Singapore can contribute to China's economic growth

In his op-ed, Heng also touched on the dual circulation strategy that China is pursuing currently, adding that Singapore can "further contribute to China's economic growth".

Singapore can do this by strengthening China's linkages with economies in the region with the reconfiguration of global trade flows and supply chains, he said.

The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative – New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, which links Western China and Southeast Asia, is an example.

So far, prospects have been positive, he added, citing a reported 35 per cent increase in cargo flows along the corridor in the first half of 2021 as compared to the same period in 2020, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Heng also listed digital collaboration as an area that both countries can work together on, saying that such cooperation will benefit their companies and galvanise efforts to integrate Asean's digital economy.

A number of bilateral projects, such as the Shenzhen Smart City Initiative can promote trusted digital environments for businesses and consumers alike, he added.

He also said Singapore welcomes interest from China and other like-minded partners in joining the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, a treaty that establishes digital trade rules and digital economy collaborations between economies.

In addition, Heng stressed on the importance of sustainable development for not just Singapore and China, but for every nation, adding that the ongoing Tianjin Eco-City project is an example of a city that's "resource-efficient and resilient to climate change".

Heng concluded his op-ed by saying that Singapore and China have common interests in building a future that is "vibrant, connected and sustainable".

"I am confident that through our close partnership, Singapore and China will be able to keep up with the times and maintain our strong momentum of multi-faceted cooperation, so that peoples in our two countries and the region can have a better future."

Top image via Heng Swee Keat/Facebook