Speech (in Mandarin) by DPM and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (Shanghai) on Governance In An Era Of Change (变革时代的治国理念) on 26 May 2019. An English translation is provided below.
Please scroll down for the English translation of the speech.
我很荣幸来到中国浦东干部学院。贵院是中国顶尖的干部学院之一。4年前，我到井冈山干部学院分享新加坡的经验。干部学院与新加坡有紧密的合作。新加坡的领导，包括建国总理李光耀先生、现任国务资政张志贤先生和尚达曼先生都曾经到浦东干部学院演讲。新加坡公共服务学院(Civil Service College) 与贵院也有不少往来。今年四月，张志贤先生也率团到延安干部学院交流。
新加坡人共同的价值观包括：(i) 保持社会的开放性，(ii) 互相包容，维持多元种族、多元宗教、多元文化的和谐，(iii) 自立自强、坚韧不拔，(iv) 诚实正直，以及(v) 互相关怀。
例如，市镇理事会实行邻区更新计划 (Neighbourhood Renewal Programme) 时，会先征求居民的反馈，再让居民投票。唯有得到至少百分之75居民同意时，才能进行翻新。
我们希望中美两国能打造可被形容为“合竞”或 “coopetition” 的关系。这就是“合作” (cooperation) 与“竞争” (competition) 的共存。两国竞争的同时，也能够携手展开互惠互利的合作。
新中两国签署了《自由贸易协定升级议定书》 (China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA))，深化两国之间的贸易和投资。
亚细安，也称东盟，和包括中国在内的主要贸易伙伴也致力于推动区域全面经济伙伴关系协定 (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)) 的早日达成。
跨太平洋伙伴全面进展协定 (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)) 也在去年生效。这是一个高水平、高度自由化的自由贸易协定，也为许多新兴领域提供了贸易规则指导。我们欢迎拥有相同理念及有意愿达到协定标杆的伙伴参与。
Executive Vice President, China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, Mr Cao Wenze
Vice President, China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, Mr Zheng Jinzhou
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here at the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP), one of China’s top leadership academies. Four years ago, I spoke at the Jinggangshan Academy (CELAJ), on Singapore’s experiences. Singapore has a close working relationship with CELAP. Our leaders, including founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, have conducted dialogues at CELAP. The Singapore Civil Service College has exchanges with CELAP as well. Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean has also just led a delegation to the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy in Yan’an in April.
Global Structural Shifts
The world is facing structural shifts and increasingly complex challenges, which affect every country. As leaders, how do we better prepare our people to meet these challenges, seize the opportunities that come along, and improve the lives of our people? Please allow me to share my views on three key global structural shifts, and the one core vision exemplified by the three key principles of governance.
Let me first share my thoughts about these three key global structural shifts.
Decline in Support for Globalisation
The first is the decline in support for globalisation and a resurgence in protectionist sentiments around the world.
This has manifested in many ways, such as the lack of progress in the Doha Rounds of trade talks, China-US trade friction, and Brexit.
In reality, openness to global trade and investments has enabled many countries, including Singapore and China, to develop and prosper.
Since ‘reform and opening up’ (改革开放) started in China 40 years ago, China has risen to become the world's second largest economy, and lifted some 800 million from poverty1.
However, the fruits of globalisation have not been shared equally across the board.
Globalisation has enabled companies that have world-class competitive strengths to scale across many markets, and make significant profits.
It has also allowed greater competition for skilled talents among these companies, leading to greater wealth accumulation at the upper end.
Hence, some groups felt that globalisation has not worked for them, and they have been left behind.
We must therefore make sure that the fruits of growth are shared by all.
Otherwise, societies can fracture.
This will make it more challenging for us to transform our industries, sustain our economic growth and improve the lives of our citizens.
Rapid Technological Advancements
The second structural shift is the rapid pace of technological advancements. We are in the midst of Industry 4.0, where new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and the Internet-of-Things have the potential to transform our lives.
I have just attended this year’s Pujiang Innovation Forum, which Singapore participated as the Country of Honour. At the forum, countries exchanged ideas and explored opportunities for strengthening collaboration in various fields. Technology has the potential to solve some of the most pressing problems we face today.
I was also in San Francisco last month where various business leaders and innovators shared how cutting-edge digital technologies are enabling new business and social models.
However, technological advancements may also make many jobs and skills redundant. This can lead to anxieties.
At a dialogue session two months ago with students from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, I asked the undergraduates what their biggest concerns were.
They were concerned that machines will take over their jobs.
But I was glad that they subsequently clarified that they are thinking hard about the future, so that they can be better prepared.
This anxiety is not uncommon in the world. In the audience today are many University and Higher Education leaders. I understand that in China, each year, there are more than 8 million graduating university students, and more than 15 million people entering the highly competitive job market2.
Many jobs in the market today did not exist when we were growing up. How do we prepare our young for jobs that do not currently exist? The key is lifelong learning.
In Singapore, we encourage lifelong learning through our SkillsFuture Movement. It is important to reskill, upskill and stay relevant. As we say in Chinese, “活学活用，学以致用；终身学习，终身受用；精益求精，敬业乐业”.
In order to succeed, this movement requires the support of tripartite partners and education institutions, and for Singaporeans to have an enthusiasm for lifelong learning.
Likewise, in China, on top of relying on employer-sponsored training, Premier Li Keqiang announced the launch of a 100 billion yuan vocational skills training initiative this year3. The initiative will provide training to help people upgrade their skills or switch industries.
The third structural shift is demographic change. Many countries, including Singapore and China, are faced with an ageing population.
The UN4 estimated that the percentage of Singapore’s population aged 60 years or over will increase from 20 percent in 2017 to 40 percent in 2050. For China, UN estimates the increase to be from 16 percent to 35 percent respectively.
The fact that people are living longer is a good thing. However, an ageing population results in a declining workforce. This will have a profound impact on healthcare expenditures, government finances and economic vibrancy.
These three structural shifts have profound implications for the world.
One complex outcome is the reduction of inequalities across countries, but an increase in inequalities within countries5. Income inequality can fragment a society. Instead, we must build a cohesive and inclusive society. How to achieve this is something all leaders need to be concerned about. For example, President Xi Jinping outlined the vision of leaving no one behind as society prospers (“全面建成小康社会，一个也不能少；共同富裕路上，一个也不能掉队”6).
Inequality now manifests not just between the haves and the have-nots, but also between the know, and the “know-nots”. For example, many older workers benefited less from the advances in education system over the years, as they have left the system earlier on. They may thus find it challenging to take on certain jobs, and therefore earn less and have less savings compared to younger workers. They may also find it harder to keep up with the rapid technological advancements.
Fortunately, our traditional family values mean that children will help to look after their parents. But this also adds to the pressures which they face.
These challenges have profound implications on the well-being of our people. The question for leaders is, how are we going to respond to them? Let me now elaborate on the principles of leadership and governance that can assist us to navigate this era of change.
Principles of Governance in this Era of Change
Core: Putting People at the Heart of What We Do
At the core, leaders must put our people at the heart of everything we do.
To do this, shared values matter.
Every society has its own set of values. These common values can strengthen trust and cohesion in a society.
In Singapore, some of our shared values are (i) our commitment to openness, (ii) our embrace of multiculturalism, multi-racialism, multi-religious society and harmony, (iii) our spirit of self-determination and resilience, (iv) integrity, as well as (v) care for one another and responsibility.
Leaders of a country need to live by their shared values, and to promote them throughout the society.
This is also an unwavering commitment that each generation of Singaporean leaders make to our people.
Having identified what is core, Governments can then:
Take an adaptive approach to change;
Be bold in planning long-term; and
Be apt at strengthening international cooperation.
Take an Adaptive Approach to Change
Let me first share about taking an adaptive approach to change. The world is changing rapidly, and so are our people’s aspirations.
In early stages of development, people are more focused on satisfying basic needs.
As society progresses, many more citizens develop an interest in and express their views about a variety of issues.
No policy is applicable to all contexts and at all times.
Governments must be prepared to make necessary changes to adapt with the times as our citizens’ interests evolve.
However, we must not change for change’s sake.
We should take calculated risks, and dare to change when circumstances require.
This can only be done well if the Government put its people at the heart of its policies. To do this, leaders must engage their people actively.
Government must consult citizens to understand their needs and aspirations.
During my visit to CELAJ, I shared about “Our Singapore Conversation”. Our Singapore Conversation was a national consultation exercise that reached out to Singaporeans on their aspirations for Singapore’s future.
However, it is not sufficient to just consult and gather feedback. We also have to engage leaders of different segments of society to co-develop ideas and solutions to issues, and overcome challenges together.
Going further, we must also mobilise different groups and harness the energies of our people.
For example, we set up the Community Network for Seniors. This network not only involves our community leaders, but also taps on volunteers, many of whom also belong to the silver generation, to engage other seniors to age actively, and to care for the more vulnerable ones.
Our People’s Association plays an integral part in strengthening the links between the Government and the people, and building strong communities. The volunteers tirelessly organise activities to reach out to different segments of the community, and walk the ground to better understand the needs of the residents.
By making every effort to form deeper relationships and partnerships at every sector and level, we build a stronger society.
Bold to Plan Long Term
The second principle is to be bold to plan long-term.
While it is important for governments to adapt to short-term circumstances in an increasingly volatile world, we must continue to keep our eyes focused on the long-term horizon in our planning.
Take for example Wales, a country in the United Kingdom, has appointed a new Minister, known as the ‘Minister for Future Generations’7. The Minister will ensure that decisions taken by the Welsh government today consider the interests of future citizens.
This is an interesting idea. Every leader needs to consider how our decisions made today can improve the future of our people.
Planning long-term also allows us more runway to prepare for future challenges.
Urban planning is a good example of how countries can plan long-term.
In his Government Work Report 2019, Premier Li Keqiang talked about the importance of a coordinated cluster development approach to drive urbanisation of a higher quality (“促进区域协调发展，提高新型城镇化质量”)8.
For Singapore, we have limited land, only about 700 square kilometres, and hence we must make the best use of this limited resource.
We have a concept plan to guide developments over the next 40-50 years, while the more detailed Masterplan translates these strategies into more concrete plans for the next 10-15 years. These plans allow us to continually rejuvenate our infrastructure so that Singapore remains a liveable home for all.
Singapore’s leases generally do not exceed 99 years. Extensions are subject to government approval. This also allows the government to rejuvenate land for national development.
Urban rejuvenation is something that all cities in the world must undertake, including Singapore.
As Singapore embarked on our urban rejuvenation projects, we engaged our citizens to understand their views.
For example, our Town Councils implementing the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme actively engages residents. Residents are consulted and required to vote. The programme will only proceed if at least 75% of the eligible residents indicate their support.
In taking an adaptive approach has also helped us to intensify the use of land.
Our Tampines Hub (OTH) is Singapore’s largest integrated community and lifestyle hub. We co-located various community facilities, such as a regional library, sports facilities, swimming pools, performance theatre, restaurants, hawker centre, retail outlets and a public service centre. This way, not only do we intensify the use of the land, we now also offer greater convenience and a wider range of services for residents of different ages.
Co-locating facilities also allows us to promote inter-generational mixing. In Kampung Admiralty, we have a childcare centre and Active Aging Hub co-located. They work together to run inter-generational programmes for children and seniors to interact with each other.
Beyond ensuring that the current generation have their needs taken care of, we must also ensure the sustainability of our environment for our future generation.
In China, President Xi talked about developing an ecological civilization, and building a beautiful China (加快生态文明体制改革，建设美丽中国9). To realise this vision, China has made strengthening pollution prevention and control, enhancing ecological improvement and making big advances in green development as one of its priorities10.
Given Singapore’s dense urban environment, air quality and greenery are especially important. Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said “a blighted urban jungle of concrete destroys the human spirit.” With the foresight of our pioneer leaders, Singapore has set out to become a Garden City since the early days of our independence.
Today, we have more than 40% green cover.
We aspire to further turn Singapore from being a “Garden City” into a “City in a Garden”, through innovative concepts, such as the Tengah District, Singapore’s first “Forest Town” that brings us close to nature.
Over the years, we have also been promoting green buildings and sustainability in the built environment.
We have also continued our efforts in preserving our heritage. Our Botanic Gardens was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only is it a recreational space, it is also an important institution for horticultural research, education and conservation.
On improving urban liveability, both our countries have much to exchange ideas on.
For example, through efforts such as the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city project, we have turned a barren, saline land into a low-carbon and liveable city for 100,000 residents and more than 7,000 registered companies after ten years of hard work.
These efforts have helped to increase the sustainability of our development.
Apt at Strengthening International Collaboration
The third principle is to strengthen greater international collaboration and promote global peace and prosperity.
No country has all the resources and expertise it needs.
Openness and international collaborations can achieve win-win outcomes.
China and the US, as two major powers, play an indispensable role in ensuring peace and stability, and to address global challenges.
Recent escalation of trade tensions between the two are worrying. The China-US relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world.
Competition is inevitable, as each nation strives to safeguard her interests and create a better life for her people.
Competition can be constructive if managed well as it can spur innovation and drive progress.
On the other hand, competition can be disruptive if it degenerates into conflict and rivalry.
We hope that China and US can develop a relationship based on “coopetition”, i.e. able to cooperate in mutually beneficial areas while competing.
Countries should also continue to press ahead with cooperation in areas of common concern.
For example, countries can cooperate to improve transport, economic, and people-to-people connectivity. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to improve connectivity is one example of bringing together international partners to solve the common challenge of meeting demand in infrastructure investments in the region. It will deliver win-win outcomes and common development for its participants. Singapore was an early and strong supporter of the BRI. Singapore is also the largest destination for Chinese investments out of China, into the Belt and Road countries. Last year, we upgraded the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative’s Southern Transport Corridor to the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, linking the Silk Road Economic Belt to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, thereby strengthening regional connectivity.
Another area is that of maintaining an open, rules-based multilateral trading system, in face of the declining support for globalisation.
We upgraded the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) to deepen trade and investments between China and Singapore.
ASEAN and our major partners, including China, have continued to press on for the early completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) also came into force last year. This is a high standard FTA with a high degree of liberalisation and a pathfinder on rules in many emerging sectors. We welcome countries who share the same vision and ambition to join when they are ready.
Next, we can also strengthen people- to-people ties.
For example, Singapore, China and Southeast Asian countries offer a variety of culture, art, cuisine, and places of interest.
These can provide different cultural and tourism experiences for our overseas friends.
This will foster mutual understanding and strengthen ties across our peoples.
China and Singapore share a longstanding and close friendship built on mutual trust. Our leaders have also established an “all-round cooperative partnership, progressing with the times” (与时俱进的全方位合作伙伴关系).
I just met Premier Li Keqiang, Vice-Premier Han Zheng and other Chinese leaders in Beijing.
I also just chaired the newly established Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council (SSCCC) with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong.
This is the eighth business council Singapore has with China. Notably, it is Shanghai’s first comprehensive institutionalised platform with a foreign country.
As we look forward to the 30th year of formal diplomatic relations next year, we will continue to explore more ways strengthen our cooperation and bilateral ties.
Let me conclude. The world is facing three structural shifts – (i) decline in support for globalisation, (ii) rapid technological advancements, and (iii) demographic change.
As leaders, we must always remember to put our people at the heart of everything we do. With this, we can then (i) take an adaptive approach to change, (ii) be bold in planning for the long-term, as well as (iii) be apt at strengthening international collaboration.
Singapore and China are old friends（旧朋友 ）, and also good friends (好朋友). We look forward to more win-win collaborations to deepen and strengthen our ties, so as to bring greater benefits to our peoples.
Thank you very much!
《驻东盟大使黄溪连在实现可持续发展本地化和减贫目标研讨会开幕式上的讲话》, 22 August 2018.
 Source:《2018年我国城镇新增就业逾1500万， 高校毕业生超五成》，中国网，26 February 2018.
 Source: Government Work Report 2019 (2019 年政府工作报告) by Premier Li Keqiang at the National People’s Congress in March 2019.
 Source: UN Report on World Population Ageing 2017.
 Source: The World Inequality Report 2018
 Source: 《习近平总书记在十九届中共中央政治局常委同中外记者见面时的讲话》，新华网，25 October 2017.
 Source: Government Work Report 2019 (2019 年政府工作报告), presented by Premier Li Keqiang at the National People’s Congress in March 2019.
 Source:19th National Party Congress Report (决胜全面建成小康社会，夺取新时代中国特色社会主义伟大胜利 – 在中国共产党第十九次全国代表大会上的报告), delivered by President Xi Jinping in Oct 2017
 Source: Government Work Report 2019 (2019 年政府工作报告), presented by Premier Li Keqiang at the National People’s Congress in March 2019
 Source: 《中新天津生态城10周年，昔日盐碱荒滩，今日绿色新城》, Lianhe Zaobao, 15 Sep 2018.
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