Transcript of Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's Opening Remarks and Q&A Response at the Joint Press Conference with PRC State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi

14 September 2021

Minister: I want to again bid a very warm welcome to State Councilor Wang Yi to Singapore. I am very pleased to host him again. He had a brief visit with us in October last year, and since then, this year, we have already met – this is our third meeting. I met you in Fujian and then in Chongqing. And of course, we have had phone calls and other communications, in between. It just illustrates the very close relationship that we have, and the fact that throughout this pandemic, both China and Singapore have extended our mutual support to each other at critical moments, and this proves the point that a friend in need is a friend indeed. During our discussions yesterday, we discussed a wide range of issues, including the need to increase high-level bilateral exchanges. We assessed the good progress made in our three Government-to-Government projects in Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing, as well as explored new areas of cooperation. State Councilor Wang Yi expressed China's interest in the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) that Singapore had signed with New Zealand and Chile in June 2020. This Digital Economy Partnership Agreement is a first of its kind agreement that establishes new approaches and collaboration in digital trade issues. It promotes interoperability between different digital systems, and it addresses the new issues and opportunities brought about by digitalisation. Singapore welcomes China's interest in cooperating on the digital economy, and this is a vital and fast growing component of our relationship. We also discussed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – the RCEP. In fact, China and Singapore were the first two countries to ratify the RCEP, and we hope that the RCEP will come into force as soon as possible. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat also met State Councilor Wang Yi, and they discussed cooperation in the green economy and in sustainable development. Both Singapore and China have placed sustainability at the forefront of our economic development going forward, as demonstrated by Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 and China's 14th Five-Year Plan. I believe we can work very closely together to harvest new growth opportunities in this vital field. Moving ahead, we also look forward to the convening of the 17th meeting of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), which is the apex platform for Singapore-China cooperation, and this will be co-chaired by DPM Heng Swee Keat and Vice Premier Han Zheng. The JCBC will allow us to take stock of and to deepen our ongoing cooperation, as well as to discuss how both sides can pursue new initiatives that are mutually beneficial. On ASEAN – this year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our dialogue relations, and your (State Councilor Wang Yi’s) visit here is most timely. We had a very good discussion on how ASEAN and China can commemorate this important milestone. We look forward to the commemorative summit of our leaders, hopefully at the end of the year.


The 24th ASEAN-China Summit will be an opportunity to further enhance and deepen this partnership. (I) think you all know that ASEAN and China have had substantive relations with cooperation across many sectors, including public health, connectivity, smart cities, and more. ASEAN welcomes mutually beneficial engagement with all our dialogue partners, including China, within the inclusive framework of the ASEAN-led mechanisms. ASEAN welcomes engagement based on principles of ASEAN centrality and unity, and espouses an open, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture anchored in international law, including (the) 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). Like China, the US is a long-standing constructive partner in our region. State Councilor Wang Yi and I had extensive discussions, as we had on other occasions, on US-China relations and its implications on the rest of the world – including (and) especially in Southeast Asia. I am very glad to hear from State Councilor Wang Yi that China seeks a cooperative relationship with the US – as an equal. Competition between major powers is inevitable. But constructive competition and cooperation is possible, necessary, and beneficial for all of us. Both the US and China have strategic interests in this region, and are key economic partners of all members of ASEAN. The trajectory of US-China cooperation has implications on the outlook for our region, and indeed, for the rest of the world. So there is much heavy burdens on your (State Councilor Wang Yi’s) shoulders.


In recent months, the US-China tensions have generated some discomfort (and) some unease amongst regional countries. I think one key point is that nobody wants to be forced to choose sides. For us, we hope that both the US and China will find a modus vivendi in the conduct of their relations, open channels of communication, manage tensions and frictions as and when they arise, and find a way to move forward despite their differences. In this regard, State Councilor Wang Yi just met Prime Minister Lee, (and) we expressed the fact that we welcome the recent phone call between President Xi (Jinping) and President (Joe) Biden. We hope that these discussions will continue, and will auger a new trajectory for a healthy relationship between the two powers. Ultimately, we would like to see the two biggest economies in the world coexist peacefully, and in an open and inclusive regional architecture throughout ASEAN, and this will be win-win for all of us.


Overall, I want  to thank you, State Councilor Wang Yi, for your intensive efforts at diplomacy. Yesterday, I said that you have been the most hardworking foreign minister in the world, with your extensive travels and hosting of numerous meetings – thank you for your personal efforts and thank you for China’s efforts at helping us overcome the current pandemic, helping us collectively face climate change, and also for working with the US, the EU (European Union), Japan, and other partners as we seek to harvest the benefits of the digital revolution.




LHZB (Han Yong Hong)Following up from your remarks earlier, Minister, Singapore has had the honour to receive important guests visiting our country and the region recently. Apart from State Councilor Wang Yi, US Vice President Kamala Harris had recently visited Singapore. I would like to ask if you see this as part of a diplomatic competition between the US and China, and what is your assessment of ASEAN’s possibility of not choosing sides?


Minister: Well, thank you for that excellent question. State Councilor Wang Yi and I have discussed this question on numerous occasions. In fact, he just had an extensive discussion on this point with our Prime Minister. Let me share the perspective of a very small city-state in the heart of Southeast Asia.


America has been a benign, constructive, and positive presence in our region for many decades. In fact, America is the largest foreign investor in Singapore. It is our third largest trading partner. It is our largest trading partner for services. American investment and American technology have created many jobs and opportunities for us in Singapore and in Southeast Asia. But actually, the biggest success story of the last 40 years has been China. Never before in history have hundreds of millions of people been lifted out of poverty – and have fulfilled your centenary goal. The rise of China is inexorable. It is the biggest story of our lifetime. Right now, at this point in history, the biggest question is how will China’s rise affect the relationship with the current superpower, the US. And whether this formula that has existed for many decades of economic integration, of free trade, of free flow of investments and of technology – this formula which has been responsible for peace and prosperity across the world, and especially in Southeast Asia – whether this formula will continue to apply. Now, obviously, circumstances have changed. As I said, the biggest change was the rise of China. What Singapore hopes for is that the relationship between the US and China will be one where despite the fact that competition is inevitable, that you will still be able to find a constructive relationship, that you will be able to cooperate where it is absolutely essential, both in terms of the pandemic, and in terms of climate change, cooperation between China and the US is absolutely essential. From time to time when there are points of friction, we hope that confrontation can be minimised. We hope that through the hard work of State Councilor Wang Yi, these problems will be resolved. If you can achieve that, there is a very bright future in front for all of us in the world, in Southeast Asia, in China, and in the US, as we overcome the pandemic, as we launch our efforts to tackle climate change, and as we harvest the opportunities from the digital revolution. That is why (at) State Councilor (Wang Yi)’s discussion yesterday, when he expressed interest in the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, he also reiterated President Xi’s interest in the CPTPP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. If China is engaged in these multilateral efforts, which will bring about closer integration of the global economy, I think there are bright prospects for the future.


For Singapore, I believe both China and the US know that we are good, long-term, all-weather friends. What we say is based on a common hope that they will have a good relationship, and that when they engage with us in Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia will be a region with an inclusive architecture, with many opportunities and runs on the basis of multilateralism and a rules-based world order. For Singapore, it is important that we be ourselves, (that) we be authentic. State Councilor and I have known each other now for six years. We have not always agreed on everything, but we have been old friends, close friends, and close friends are able to have open hearts, and we have been able to solve many things quietly and effectively. That is my hope for the future. I remain optimistic that greater engagement between both China and the US will be positive, and that the relations with Southeast Asia will be conducted on the basis of mutual respect, on the equality of countries and to look for win-win outcomes in all circumstances. So I thank you for your efforts in helping us achieve this dream.


I think the key point is that there is hope. With good hearts, open hearts, with honest conversations. You know that Singapore is a close friend to China and to the US. We will always tell you and share with you our views openly and honestly, and try to be constructive.



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Photo JPC 1

Joint Press Conference with Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and PRC State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi on 14 September 2021


Photo Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore



Photo JPC 2

Joint Press Conference with Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and PRC State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi on 14 September 2021


Photo Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore


Photo JPC 3

Joint Press Conference with Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and PRC State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi on 14 September 2021


Photo Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore


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