China, Singapore ties not personal to any particular leader: PM Lee, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

China, Singapore ties not personal to any particular leader: PM Lee

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PM Lee says relationship between both nations will stay warm under new PM

China and Singapore's relationship is not personal to any particular leader, and the warm ties between them would continue even after Singapore gets a new prime minister, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Singapore has been preparing for a transition for a long time, getting younger ministers to actively engage China on various bilateral platforms, he added, as the country takes steps for a successor to be at the helm.

"I hope this (transition) will go smoothly, and I think the Chinese side very much wants the relationship and the friendship to continue," he said.

"It's in the interest of both countries, it's not personal to a few or to particular leaders."

PM Lee was responding to a question on how his government's leadership transition would affect bilateral ties, during a wrap-up interview with Singapore reporters on his five-day visit to the Chinese capital, where he attended the second Belt and Road Forum.

Earlier, he met China's top leaders - President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang - and witnessed the signing of five agreements on the Belt and Road cooperation between both countries.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's promotion to deputy prime minister (DPM) was announced last week, in a move that clearly signals he will be Singapore's next prime minister.

He will be Singapore's sole DPM tomorrow, when current DPMs Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam take up the post of senior ministers.

PM Lee noted that other leaders have also been actively engaging with China, on the provincial-level and the apex bilateral platform: the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).

He also said Singapore has told China that Mr Heng would be taking over as co-chair of the JCBC from Mr Teo.

"The Chinese side have said yes - they welcome this, they know him because he has interacted with them on many occasions, including when President Xi and Premier Li came to visit Singapore and he was the accompanying minister.

"So they have a direct feel of him."

On his relationship with Mr Xi, PM Lee said he was "very comfortable" working with him and hoped this would continue.

Turning to the meeting he attended for the first time with almost 40 world leaders, PM Lee said Singapore had made suggestions on how the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) can take a more sustainable approach.

The BRI is China's mega-plan to build a network linking it to Europe, Africa and parts of Asia.

Mr Xi had pledged during the forum to make the BRI a project that is clean, green and financially sustainable, hitting back at international criticism of his signature policy.

PM Lee said: "It's the right objectives to aim for. Of course, the critical thing is to see them implement it in the actual projects which come to fruition."