SINGAPORE • Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s (picture) visit to China this week signals efforts on both sides to reaffirm relations that have showed strains over the past year — both in its timing and number of high-level meetings.
Lee began a three-day official visit on Tuesday, getting face time with China’s top officials as they prepare for a once-every-five-years party congress next month. He was to meet with President Xi Jinping yesterday, after meeting three other members of the Communist Party’s supreme Politburo Standing Committee: Premier Li Keqiang, national legislature chief Zhang Dejiang and top graft-buster Wang Qishan.
Singapore expects to be at the forefront of the region’s relations with China next year, when the city-state heads the Association of South-East Asian Nations. The bloc’s summits have sometimes become a platform for the airing of grievances with China, especially over its efforts to assert expansive claims to the South China Sea.
Lee’s visit helps quiet speculation over his relationship with Beijing after Hong Kong authorities detained a shipment of Singaporean armored personnel carriers returning from a training exercise with China’s rival, Taiwan. Singapore and China accounted for US$66 billion (RM276.54 billion) in two-way trade last year — representing 13% of the city-state’s total — and Lee is eager not to miss out on Xi’s “Belt and Road” global trade-and-infrastructure initiative. — Bloomberg