China moves to strengthen ties with Singapore - China’s latest political and current affairs - SupChina

China moves to strengthen ties with Singapore – China’s latest political and current affairs

“Will do our best to bring Asean and China closer together,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong 李显龙 wrote in a Facebook post following a meeting with China’s premier, Li Keqiang 李克强, on September 19. The sentiment to increase cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — which Singapore will rotate in to lead next year — and China likely delighted Beijing, which has long viewed the city-state as an important but troublesome partner. Singapore, being three-quarters ethnically Chinese, is important to China as a gateway to Southeast Asia, but distrusted by Communist Party hardliners for its closeness to Taiwan and the United States — see here for a chart explaining the variety of Chinese views on Singapore.

On September 20, the top headlines on central state media outlets Xinhua (in Chinese, in English) and People’s Daily (in Chinese, in English) were about Lee’s meeting with a visibly buoyant President Xi Jinping. But as Bloomberg reports, it wasn’t just the president and his premier, it was all his men, too: Lee met with two more of the seven most powerful men in China, national legislature chief Zhang Dejiang 张德江 and anti-corruption chief Wang Qishan 王岐山 — a meeting that came as a “surprise to many China watchers and apparently even to Wang himself,” the South China Morning Post reports.

What are Singapore and China doing together, other than exchanging friendly bromides? SCMP has the relevant roundup:

  • China is trying to get Singapore to have a Chinese company build the planned $14 billion, 350-kilometer (217-mile) high-speed rail line from Singapore to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, expected to be completed in 2026.
  • Both countries are implementing the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, a package of financial services, transportation, logistics, and communications services that aims to improve connectivity between Chongqing and Southeast Asia.
  • Chinese property developers have flocked to Singapore, as the city-state accounts for more than 15 percent of their outbound investment.
  • Trade has flourished, growing 60 percent since 2009 to $85 billion last year, and the countries are currently negotiating an update to their bilateral free trade agreement. China has been Singapore’s top trading partner since 2013.

Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.