Speech at the Welcome Dinner Hosted by the Singapore Business Federation and Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Singapore, 13 November 2018
Chairman Teo Siong Seng,
President Roland Ng San Tiong,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join Singaporean business leaders tonight. I would like to thank all of you for the warm hospitality accorded to me and my delegation, which made us feel very much at home. I would also like to pay high tribute to all Singaporean friends who have shown interest in and support for China’s reform, opening-up and modernization and made consistent efforts to promote the cause of friendship between our two countries.
The past four decades of reform and opening-up in China has seen transformative changes in my country and made China the world’s second largest economy. With more than 700 million people lifted out of poverty, the once poor nation has been moving toward moderate prosperity. Singapore on its part has also scored numerous achievements and turned itself into a country of advanced economy, beautiful environment, harmonious society, and cutting-edge competitiveness in many fields. What you have accomplished is nothing short of a “Singapore miracle.” Over these 40 years, Singapore’s development has provided valuable experience to draw from for China, while China’s development has brought important opportunities for Singapore. By tapping into each other’s strengths, our two countries have achieved common development through win-win collaboration, setting an example of cooperation between nations.
During President Xi Jinping’s successful state visit to Singapore in 2015, our two countries established an all-round cooperative partnership progressing with the times, ushering in a new era for bilateral ties. It is in the spirit of progressing with the times that I have been working with Singaporean colleagues during this visit to review past experience, expand consensus and deepen cooperation in order to elevate our relationship to new heights.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I held productive talks, which achieved important consensus and desired outcomes in wide-ranging areas. The two sides signed cooperation agreements in many areas and will issue a joint statement between our governments. Earlier today, I delivered the 44th Singapore Lecture organized by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in collaboration with Business China. My interactions with people of various sectors here have left me deeply impressed with the special bond of friendship and cooperation between our countries, which stands out with three features.
First, “amity.” In the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty about 400 years ago, many Chinese from China’s southeastern seaboard areas moved to Southeast Asia to make a living, sowing the seeds of friendship between our two countries. In modern times, our peoples stood together through thick and thin and supported each other in times of need and difficulties. Since China’s reform and opening-up, the two sides have been bonded even more closely by intensified exchanges and cooperation.
Second, “real result.” For the past five years, China has been Singapore’s largest trading partner, and Singapore China’s largest source of FDI growth. From culture, education, science and technology, to environmental protection and personnel training, cooperation between us has been booming in many fields.
And third, “innovativeness.” Our pioneering and innovative cooperation is showcased by such projects as the Suzhou Industrial Park, a magnet for attracting investment, and the Tianjin Eco-City, a demonstration of green and environmentally friendly urban life. A more recent flagship project has been the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, which focuses on enhancing connectivity and services for economic development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are now facing a complicated situation on the global economic front with increasing destabilizing factors and uncertainties. Our two countries need to further enhance political mutual trust, step up strategic communication, and broaden, deepen and upgrade cooperation. By so doing, we will inject strong impetus into the development and prosperity of our region and beyond.
China is ready to work with Singapore to expand cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Lying at an intersection between two oceans and between land and sea, Singapore is a natural partner of the BRI. In May last year, the two sides signed the MOU on Belt and Road cooperation. We are now working vigorously to build the three cooperation platforms of connectivity, financial support, and third-party cooperation. The New Land-Sea Corridor connecting our two countries has made better-than-expected progress. The Guangzhou Knowledge City has been elevated to a national-level project between the two sides. Third party cooperation is another promising area. We encourage our businesses to actively explore possibilities of cooperation in infrastructure, petrochemicals, shipping and logistics, industrial parks, e-commerce and other sectors on the basis of market principles and in line with the wishes of host countries.
China is ready to work with Singapore to upgrade economic and trade cooperation. During this visit, a protocol was signed to upgrade the China-Singapore FTA. We need to speed up its implementation to deliver early benefits to our companies and the general public. Singaporean businesses are welcome to expand investment in China, especially in the central and western region and the northeast, which hold out great potentials for growth, to reap more fruits of win-win cooperation. We also need to enhance exchanges and cooperation between our innovative companies and innovators to make innovation a new growth area for bilateral cooperation.
China is ready to work with Singapore to deepen financial cooperation. The scale of currency swaps between us has reached 300 billion yuan ($43 billion). The two sides are positively considering renewing our currency swap agreement to encourage local currency settlement in investment and trade. Singapore is a major international financial center with mature regulatory models and rich financial resources. China supports dialogue and exchanges between our financial regulators and encourages our financial institutions to develop business cooperation in accordance with commercial rules. We can also explore the setting-up of a comprehensive and all-dimensional financial support platform. The fintech agreement we just signed should be well implemented to promote the sound and orderly financial cooperation in e-payment and other emerging areas.
China is ready to work with Singapore to move regional cooperation to a higher level. Given Singapore’s important influence in ASEAN, we need to work together to enhance and upgrade China-ASEAN cooperation, work toward an East Asia Economic Community, and strive for the early conclusion of the RCEP negotiations. Together, we need to send a positive message of firmly upholding rules-based multilateralism and free trade.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now turn to China’s economy, which I assume is a topic of much interest to many of you. In the first three quarters of this year, the Chinese economy has maintained a steady performance and operated within a proper range. The level of major macro indicators is consistent with our expectations, with GDP growing by 6.7 percent year-on-year, total electricity consumption 8.9 percent, and freight volume 7 percent, all in tandem with overall growth. Employment, our top priority, performed better than expected with more than 11 million new urban jobs created, higher than the same period last year. The surveyed urban unemployment rate in September stood at a fairly low level of 4.9 percent. CPI registered a moderate increase. International payments were basically balanced.
China is seeing continued improvement in its economic structure and fast emergence of new growth drivers. That is evidenced by higher contribution to growth from final consumption and services and faster expansion of high-tech and equipment manufacturing industries than general industries. A record 18,000 new businesses are being registered on an average day on top of more than 100 million existing market entities. New drivers are playing a stronger role in underpinning steady growth, job creation and structure adjustment. This is where the hope of China’s future development lies.
Having said that, impacted by notable changes in the global environment, the Chinese economy is indeed confronted with certain downward pressure. This has been well within our expectations. We have tackled the situation with concrete measures and will continue to do so. Being the largest developing country, China has the most promising market and distinct advantages of a fairly complete industrial system, well-developed infrastructure and strong human resources and talent. With vast potential, great resilience, broad space for maneuver and adaptiveness to changes, we are well-positioned to cope with all kinds of risks and challenges. China’s economic fundamentals underpinning long-term growth will remain sound, promising even brighter prospects for China’s development.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. We will work harder to take forward reform and opening-up with more targeted measures and at a faster pace. We will unswervingly promote high-quality development and keep macro policies consistent and stable by fine-tuning the proactive fiscal policy and prudent monetary policy rather than resorting to a massive stimulus. Taxes and fees are expected to be cut by 1.3 trillion yuan this year, and will be cut on an even larger scale going forward. We will try to better align with international economic and trade rules, further streamline administrative approval procedures, exercise fair and impartial regulation, and fully protect all types of property rights to create a business environment in which all companies, be they Chinese and foreign-owned, are treated as equals and compete on a level-playing field. We will deepen reforms in key areas such as fiscal policy and taxation, the financial sector, state assets and SOEs, and implement and improve supporting policies for the private sector.
At the opening ceremony of the first China International Import Expo, President Xi Jinping announced new measures of further opening-up, which will be implemented expeditiously. To develop a high-quality open economy, China will further reduce tariffs to increase import, steadily widen the openness of the financial sector, speed up the opening of telecommunications, education, medical care and cultural sectors. China will also support its pilot free trade zones in deepening reform and innovation, and explore the development of free trade ports in light of China’s conditions. Many transnational companies have decided or are planning on a new round of investment in China. Companies of Singapore and other countries are welcome to get a head-start in exploiting the above opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Singapore Business Federation and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as two influential bodies in the Singapore business community, have over the years played a unique role in promoting the economic development of Singapore and China-Singapore exchanges and cooperation. I hope you will continue to leverage your rich pool of talent and extensive business networks to encourage more Singaporean companies to go to China for business opportunities and cooperation. I count on you to make new contributions to China-Singapore relations.
To conclude, please join me in a toast,
to the prosperity of China and Singapore,
to the growth of our all-round cooperative partnership progressing with the times, and
to the health and success of all friends present.