Published: 17:28, June 20, 2024
Two tigers of digital age
By Yu Hong

Singapore, China to use BRI to spur high-quality ties in new technology, green transition


Despite being a small country, Singapore has invested significantly in bolstering China ties.

In addition to its embassy in Beijing, Singapore has six consular offices in China and is deeply involved in China’s reform and opening-up process and the development of local provinces and cities.

The two countries have carried out a number of local cooperation projects.

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To date, Singapore has undertaken four national-level bilateral cooperation projects with China, namely the Suzhou Industrial Park, the Tianjin Eco-City, the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Strategic Connectivity Demonstration Project and the Guangzhou Knowledge City.

In April 2023, Singapore and China established a comprehensive, high-quality, forward-looking partnership.

China is Singapore’s largest commodity trading partner, and Singapore is China’s top foreign investor. This is testament to the close economic and trade ties.

By the end of 2023, the cumulative investment of Singaporean enterprises in China reached $141.2 billion.

Singapore has tiny domestic market, so it must treat the world as a market. It strives to maintain and expand its foreign trade network, and participate in and develop regional free trade mechanisms (such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, or DEPA).

Singapore’s economic development is inseparable from the

Chinese market. The city-state was the first Southeast Asian country to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with China.

Economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has expanded from traditional trade and investment to high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence, big data, electric vehicles, biotechnology and aerospace.

In addition, since the early 1990s, about 55,000 Chinese officials at all levels and in various industries have participated in various training programs in Singapore.

Singapore was one of the first countries to support and participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and is a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

From Singapore’s perspective, Southeast Asia needs to improve infrastructure, and infrastructure needs funding.

The BRI has helped China to boost infrastructure financing and project development in the Asia-Pacific region, and will serve as an important platform for China to integrate into regional networks of cooperation.

Singapore is one of the important destinations for China’s outward foreign direct investment. According to official Chinese data, China’s accumulated direct investment in Singapore had reached $89.6 billion by the end of 2023.

Thanks to Singapore’s well-established and convenient infrastructure, high-level inter-regional connectivity, transparent governance, and its status as a major global financial center and transhipment hub, it has become the regional operational headquarters and financing center for many Chinese enterprises entering Southeast Asia.

Chinese companies also seek to expand internationally by leveraging Singapore’s global trade network and experience.

Under the BRI, Chinese and Singaporean firms have successfully joined forces to carry out market cooperation in third-party countries, especially in Southeast Asia.

People-to-people exchanges are essential to deepen relations between the two countries, and tourism is a key area. China is one of Singapore’s largest sources of foreign tourists.

On Feb 2 this year, an agreement between China and Singapore on mutual visa exemption for holders of ordinary passports entered into force. Singapore is the first developed country to sign a bilateral visa waiver agreement with China.

The mutual visa exemption is conducive for the development of the tourism industry of the two nations, and will help promote people-to-people exchanges.

Amid changes in the global geopolitical situation and the intensification of the great power competition, Singapore does not rely on any major power and will not choose sides between China and the United States.

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Looking ahead, Singapore and China will advance high-quality and forward-looking cooperation, especially in the areas of digital economy, green transformation and third-party cooperation.

The digital economy is becoming one of the new highlights of bilateral cooperation and it is an important growth area and development opportunity for Singapore and China.

China has officially applied to join DEPA, and accession will create new opportunities to strengthen Sino-Singaporean cooperation in the digital industry.

The author is a senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.