Singapore, China leaders must deepen mutual trust: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - Ties developed by earlier leaders must be built upon by next generation, he says

The trust and understanding built by earlier generations of China and Singapore leaders were crucial factors that ensured the smooth progress of joint projects like the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

For this reason, it is vital to deepen the mutual trust of the next generation of senior leaders and executives with enhanced courses and more regular exchanges, particularly with Western China's 12 provinces, he added.

Such a move will develop yet another generation of officials and businessmen in both nations for the next lap of collaboration, said Mr Chan at a Singapore-China business forum held at Shangri-La hotel.

"Beyond learning the mechanics of working with one another, the most important thing we can do for the next generation is to plant the seeds of mutual understanding and strategic trust," he told business and government leaders.

Among them was visiting Chongqing party secretary Chen Min'er, a rising star in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a member of the Politburo, the country's top decision-making body.

Mr Chen, a protege and potential successor of Chinese President Xi Jinping, is on a four-day visit to Singapore at the invitation of Mr Chan.

Speaking before they witnessed the signing of 27 agreements between companies from both sides, Mr Chan said: "Projects between Singapore and China can proceed so smoothly, so quickly, because of the shared understanding and the mutual trust."

Other promising areas for the next lap highlighted by Mr Chan include the development of the new land and sea trade corridor in the CCI and further integrating each other's platforms and standards.

The corridor has reduced freight transport to South-east Asia from three weeks to seven days and helped awaken Central Asian countries to new opportunities in Asean.

Mr Chan also said that "amid the world of uncertainties, where businesses are looking for long-term opportunities, common standards and platforms are of vital importance to the growth of our enterprises".

Mr Chen represents the new generation of China leaders who would play a major role in the next lap of collaboration.

He became Chongqing's top official in 2017, after he successfully turned Guizhou province into a data centre powerhouse in his two years as its party boss.

Yesterday, he called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana, and was hosted to dinner by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.

He will meet Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat today.

Yesterday, Mr Chan and Mr Chen also witnessed the launch of a dedicated data channel linking Chongqing city to Singapore, China's first point-to-point data link with another country.

A tie-up between Singtel, StarHub and China's Big Three state telcos, the 260Gbps data link will provide users with better network reliability and lower latency.

Twelve Chongqing firms, including tech giant Tencent and major data centre operator GDS, have signed as customers of the channel.

Mr Chan said both nations should use the CCI to build more connections between South-east Asia, Western China and beyond.

Mr Chen agreed on the need to focus on harmonising platforms and standards, and said the CCI has served as "a bridge for deepening cooperation between Chongqing and Singapore".

"We feel that this road is becoming longer and wider, and the connections ever richer," said Mr Chen.

"This is a channel that keeps pace with the times, and is of demonstrative value (for the rest of China)."