Remarks on China and US-China relations by Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament during the Committee of Supply Debate on 6 March 2012 - 7/03/2012

07 Mar 2012



Now let me turn to China. The size, strength and resilience of the Chinese economy makes it a stabilising force and an engine of growth for regional economies, particularly so in the last few years.


Singapore-China relations are excellent, and they are anchored by a steady exchange of high-level visits, strengthening economic links and growing people-to-people exchanges. Our leaders visit China regularly. Chinese leaders, including Vice President Xi, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, as well as many other Central government and provincial level leaders have visited Singapore in the past two years. I also had an excellent introductory visit to China in February. I had good meetings with the Chinese leaders (including Vice Premier Li) and discussed several issues. Foreign Minister Yang and I reaffirmed the importance of continued support from both our governments on a range of bilateral cooperation projects. We discussed ways to expand bilateral cooperation in new areas. Moving forward, our continued high-level exchanges and institutionalized dialogues, for example the annual Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation co-chaired by DPM Teo Chee Hean and the Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan will provide a firm basis for further strengthening of bilateral relations.


Our relations with China are also underpinned by robust economic ties. In 2011, China was Singapore's 3rd largest trading partner. Singapore was China's 15th largest. China remains our top investment destination. Besides our two flagship G-to-G projects, the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city, we have stepped up our economic engagement at the provincial level through our seven provincial business councils, and through private sector-led cooperation such as the Guangzhou Knowledge City and the Sichuan Hi-Tech Innovation Park.


As a mark of the maturity of the bilateral relationship, both sides are increasingly going beyond traditional parameters of economic cooperation, working on new areas of collaboration, such as the collaboration between the new Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Zhejiang University, and the establishment of the China Cultural Centre in Singapore. The two anticipated, eagerly awaited Giant Pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia will arrive in Singapore in the first half of this year. These are symbols of our excellent relations with China.


US-China relations


Mr Ong Teng Koon has asked about the US' "pivot" to the region and how Singapore should position itself, and Mr Singh asked about China's concerns, about containment and how we will manage that. I will try and answer these questions; maybe Mr Singh can clarify a little bit more precisely as to what he meant. But I’ll answer to the extent that I understood the question.


I will also deal with the questions posed by Dr Lim and Mr Alex Yam on how these changes will affect the evolving Sino-US relations and the regional architecture centred around ASEAN.


We welcome President Obama's announcement on the US' commitment to be a Pacific power. The US' interest in Asia is not a recent phenomenon. The US has been a vital part of our region, both strategically and economically, for decades - and that point has been made many times. There is bipartisan support in the US for this policy. It is in the US' own interests to be engaged in this growing and dynamic region. We encourage the US to stay deeply engaged in this region, and to do so in a broad-based and multi-faceted way.


China has expanded its engagement with the region in recent years. It is a key player, with strong linkages, through trade, investments, development assistance, and projection of soft power. And as its economy grows and domestic demands increase, China's position as an important market for the region will increase. A stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific region will benefit China, just as ASEAN and the region at large have benefited from China's prosperity. We welcome China's commitment to a peaceful approach to development, and we will continue to partner China in fostering peace and stability in the region.


The US-China relationship will remain as one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world for decades to come. A constructive relationship between the US and China will be essential for stronger global collaboration at a time when the global economy is unstable. There will inevitably be some competition between these two major powers, but it is not a zero-sum game. We believe that the US and China can manage their relationship within a cooperative framework. Apart from their own direct bilateral channels, ASEAN and its related fora including the ARF, ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit and APEC can all play a role to help accommodate the interests of all stakeholders in the region.


Singapore has a strong equity interest in good US-China relations. As such, I had publicly and privately conveyed the importance of a stable and symbiotic Sino-US relationship during my visits to Washington DC and Beijing. These messages were accepted by both sides as necessary to ensure peace, prosperity and progress for the US and China, as well as for our region, which would not want to be entangled in great power rivalries. East Asia is really big enough for both the US and China.


Specifically on the question of containment - I think Mr Singh referred to that word - I had publicly stated in Washington that containment of China is not a feasible strategy. It is not tenable and that is not something that the US should be identifying as its strategy. And in my meetings with the US leadership, it is clear, and I was assured that that is not part of their strategy either. So if I have not answered Mr Singh's questions fully maybe he can clarify at the end of my speech.


Going forward, Singapore will continue to maintain strong and friendly relations with both countries. We will also support the strengthening of regional platforms that will allow both the US and China to work with the region and contribute to all our stability and growth.

For full text of the entire remarks, please go to 

Travel Page