Speech by DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the 25th anniversary of the Suzhou Industrial Park on 12 April 2019.
“The China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park: Leading the Way in Strengthening Bilateral Relations for 25 Years and Beyond”Your Excellencies Party Secretary Lou Qinjian and Governor Wu Zhenglong,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am pleased to be back in Suzhou to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). It was just five years ago that I was here to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the SIP in 2014.
A History of Friendship
Today’s event is of special significance to me, as I have watched and participated in the development of SIP and Suzhou over many years. I first visited Suzhou in 1984 as a tourist to appreciate the culture, charm and the beauty of this historic city. When our two countries decided to work together on the SIP in 1994, I had the honour of being a member of the SIP Joint Steering Council (SIP JSC) as a young Minister of State for Finance and Transport. This led to many visits to Suzhou and the SIP in the early years of the SIP. Subsequently, as Co-Chair of the SIP JSC from 2011, together with my counterparts, then-Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli, now Vice Premier Han Zheng, we were involved in overseeing the next phase of the SIP’s development and ensuring its continued success. Throughout these interactions, I witnessed the strong sense of purpose and commitment shared by both sides, which is the key reason why the SIP has transformed into a hallmark of our bilateral cooperation.
The story of the SIP is also a story of our close bilateral relations, and can be traced back to the friendship and mutual respect between Mr Deng Xiaoping and Mr Lee Kuan Yew. During Mr Deng’s first visit to Singapore in 1978, he felt that Singapore’s economic and urban development journey could have relevance to China. Even though Singapore is a small country, Mr Lee was keen to support China’s development and share the experiences that Singapore had learnt to help China to fulfil its great potential. However, he felt that it was not sufficient for China to send many delegations to Singapore for study visits because there is nothing better than learning by doing through a project. This led to Mr Lee’s suggestion for our two countries to jointly develop an industrial park, and use it as a platform for China to apply Singapore’s experiences in economic development and public administration holistically in China’s context. We jointly selected Suzhou as the location for this important project. Today, we celebrate the success of this project on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park.
We are honoured that the Government of China conferred the Reform and Friendship Award on Mr Lee Kuan Yew last year to remember Mr Lee’s and Singapore’s contributions to China’s reform and opening up.
Today, the SIP has become China’s most competitive industrial park, and has been replicated in other cities in Jiangsu, as well as Khorgas in Xinjiang, Chuzhou in Anhui and Jiaxing in Zhejiang. The SIP has been ranked first among China’s Economic and Technological Development Zones for three consecutive years since 2015. More than 80 Fortune 500 companies have invested in over 130 projects in the SIP. It has also progressed beyond a traditional industrial park, with the steady growth of emerging high-tech industries such as biomedicine and nanotechnology.
Besides generating good jobs and income, the SIP has been widely acknowledged as an attractive city to live in. Over the years, many residents from the surrounding areas and beyond have moved to the SIP to enjoy the modern and well-planned facilities and living environment. With the SIP as a catalyst, Suzhou has also developed into one of the top cities in China, ranking 7th largest by GDP in 2018.This has only been possible with the strong support from the Central government and the Jiangsu provincial government.
The SIP has also been a successful model and pathfinder for our bilateral cooperation. Building on the SIP model, our two countries launched the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City in 2008 in line with China’s focus on sustainable development, and the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity in 2015 to support China’s Belt and Road, Western Region Development, and Yangtze River Economic Belt strategies. Over the years, the SIP has provided a platform for our two countries to build mutual trust and understanding. Several of Singapore’s officials who worked in the SIP before became Cabinet Ministers, and they have many Jiangsu and Suzhou colleagues as their old friends.
Laying the Foundations for a Brighter Future
Even as we celebrate the SIP’s achievements, we must not forget that an important task lies ahead: How should the SIP build upon the legacy that our pioneers have left us to lay an even stronger foundation for future generations?
First, the SIP must strive to continue serving as a pathfinder for China’s development. As China embarks on further reforms and opening up under the guidance of President Xi Jinping, the SIP can work with Singapore and Singapore companies to play a catalytic role. For instance, in 2014, the SIP was the pilot site for cross-border RMB transactions with Singapore. By serving as a testbed for new policy liberalisation across different sectors, we also hope to work with SIP to move up the value chain towards areas like innovation and start-ups. In 2017, the National University of Singapore (NUS) established its first BLOCK71 in China in the SIP. This year, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is establishing its first overseas presence with the A*STAR Partners’ Centre @ SIP.
Second, the SIP can lead the way as our two countries expand our cooperation outwards to support the development of our region. For example, the SIP can work with Singapore companies to build on our experience to jointly develop similar high quality industrial parks in third party markets. In line with this, Enterprise Singapore and the SIP Administrative Committee signed an MOU last year to facilitate more partnerships between Singapore and Suzhou enterprises to collaborate in third party markets along the Belt and Road.
Third, the SIP should continue to serve as a key platform to strengthen our people-to-people ties, which are the bedrock of our bilateral relations. Our people should continue learning from one another and deepen mutual understanding through frequent two-way exchanges. I am pleased that the Singapore Ministry of Trade & Industry and the Suzhou Municipal Government signed an MOU last September to strengthen bilateral exchanges through the attachment of Singapore government officials to Suzhou. We should also work together to encourage greater educational and cultural exchanges, as well as tourism flows, between Singapore, Suzhou and China.
As we jointly commemorate the 25th anniversary, I would also like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the Central government, Jiangsu government, and to all our SIP pioneers and present day colleagues for your hard work and dedication to the SIP over the years. I am glad to see and recognise pioneers from the early years of the SIP in the audience today, and who still actively contributing to the SIP. It is only with your contributions that we have the modern and successful SIP of today. Thank you, and congratulations on the SIP’s achievements. With the continued support and guidance of our top leaders, President Xi, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Premier Li Keqiang, I wish the SIP every success for the next 25 years and beyond, as you continue to lead the way in taking our bilateral relations to the next level.
Thank you very much.
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