Opening Remarks by DPM Teo Chee Hean at the 44th Singapore Lecture on 13 November 2018
Your Excellency Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China,
Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore,
Mr M Rajaram, Member of the Board of Trustees, ISEAS,
Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Chairman of Business China,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to the 44th Singapore Lecture.
We are privileged to have His Excellency Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, with us this morning. I would like to thank Premier Li for agreeing to deliver the Singapore Lecture during your Official Visit to Singapore.
44th Singapore Lecture
Premier Li’s lecture comes at an important juncture in international relations and China’s development. China has made remarkable progress since its reform and opening up 40 years ago. Domestically, China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty, more than any other country has done in history. Internationally, China has been the largest single contributor to world economic growth since the global financial crisis of 2008. Today, China is the largest trading partner of many key global and regional economies. Since 2014, it has been a net exporter of capital, with many Chinese companies “venturing out” , “走出去”, to seek new markets and sources of growth. China is now working on its Belt and Road Initiative, which is an important vision aimed at promoting regional integration. All these have made China a major player on the world stage, with an influential role in global politics and development.
China’s rapid development has also come with challenges. While China’s major coastal cities are as advanced as any in the world, many areas, especially in the interior are still developing. China continues to grapple with many challenges such as income inequality, sustainable growth, and environmental protection, and its market reforms remain a work in progress. Internationally, China has a leading role to play to help tackle global challenges such as climate change and advocating free trade and open markets. This is important as China’s growth trajectory can only be maintained if a rules-based multilateral order and international norms continue to be upheld.
Amidst this backdrop, the increasing trade tensions between China and the US have drawn concern. Sino-US relations continue to be the Asia-Pacific’s defining relationship, and it is in everyone’s interest that they remain positive and constructive. The escalating cycle of tariff measures by both sides could negatively impact the multilateral trading system, and potentially impact broader relations. As a friend of both China and the US, we hope that both sides will work together to resolve their differences, to the benefit of China, the US, and the rest of the world.
Singapore and China enjoy longstanding friendship and close cooperation. In 1978, Mr Deng Xiaoping visited Singapore, just a month before China adopted the policy of reform and opening up. Premier Li’s arrival in Singapore yesterday on 12 November was the exact same date that Mr Deng arrived in Singapore 40 years ago. Mr Deng’s visit came two years after Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s first visit to China in 1976. That exchange of visits between Mr Lee and Mr Deng laid a strong foundation for our close bilateral cooperation through successive generations of leaders on both sides, anchored by regular high-level exchanges, robust economic cooperation and strong people-to-people ties.
Today, both countries work closely together in a wide range of institutional platforms, in areas spanning trade and investment, finance, legal and judicial cooperation, human resource development, defence, social governance, sustainable development, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor since 2013. China is Singapore’s largest trading partner. Yesterday, we took another step forward in our relationship by substantially upgrading the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. We have also made good progress on our three Government-to-Government projects, in Suzhou and Tianjin, as well as the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI) which was launched in Singapore three years ago by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Xi Jinping. Progress in the CCI’s New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor has exceeded initial expectations. It connects the overland Silk Road Economic Belt with the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, linking Western China to Southeast Asia and beyond. Singapore and China also work closely together in multilateral fora, including through the annual ASEAN Summit and related meetings, which Premier Li Keqiang has attended every year since 2013.
Premier Li Keqiang
Our distinguished speaker today, Premier Li Keqiang, requires little introduction. He was the youngest Chinese provincial governor when he was appointed Governor of Henan Province at the age of 43, in 1998. He subsequently served as Governor of Liaoning Province, and Executive Vice Premier.
Premier Li has served as Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China since March 2013. As Premier, he has overseen many important economic and social policies, which have been key in sustaining China’s strong economic momentum amidst growing global uncertainties. Premier Li has also been active on the international front, promoting China’s relationships with other countries and regional groupings. This is most evident in the ASEAN context where significant progress has been made in ASEAN-China cooperation. Premier Li’s speech today is also particularly important, as 2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, we are privileged to have Premier Li address us this morning. It is now my pleasure to invite His Excellency Premier Li Keqiang to deliver the 44th Singapore Lecture, on “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity”.