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Heng Swee Keat’s first official trip to China as DPM: China-US bilateral relations most important in the world

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On his official overseas debut, Singapore's PM-in-waiting makes his mark on the most vital of current world affairs.

Singapore – In his first official visit abroad as deputy prime minister (DPM), Heng Swee Keat became the first Singapore leader to comment on the ongoing United States-China trade tensions.

On May 26 (Sunday), DPM Heng spoke at the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP) that was one of his itinerary stops during his multi-city, eight-day visit to China.

As the first Singaporean leader to weigh-in on the US-China bilateral relations, DPM Heng hopes that both countries can develop a relationship based on “coopetition,” inspired by co-operation and competition.

The increase of trade tensions between the two major powers such as the recent banning of Huawei phones in the US is “worrying” for the rest of the smaller nations in the world as both have “an indispensable role in ensuring peace and stability, and to address global challenges,” notes Heng.

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“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,” he added.

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The DPM had the following comment about competition, with regards to the two major world powers: “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.”

He also mentioned three global structural shifts which pose uncertain implications for the world and could lead to “the reduction of inequalities across countries, but an increase in inequalities within countries.”

These structural shifts are the decline in support for globalisation and an increase in protectionist sentiments within countries, rapid technological advancements that promote automation and the redundancy of human capabilities, and demographic changes such as ageing populations.

To address these structural shifts, Heng gave three principles of governance that include the adaptability to change, the bold planning for long-term objectives, and the skill to strengthen international co-operation.

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DPM Heng also met with CELAP Executive Vice President Cao Wenze and Vice President Zheng Jinzhou.

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CELAP, which is one of the top party schools in China, was established in 2005 and has trained over 100,000 Communist Party units. It has also been engaged in exchanges with Singapore’s Civil Service College.

Heng’s visit to China is of deep significance due to the “longstanding, close friendship built on mutual trust” that China and Singapore share.

The official visit also included a delegation that consisted of Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong, and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry Tan Wu Meng.

Heng — whom many regard as Singapore’s next prime minister — met with Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Han Zheng who are two of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party in China (CPC) and two of the most senior leaders in China.

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Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong are among the major Chinese cities that have been included in the official trip, which will end on May 29 (Wednesday).

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On May 23, DPM Heng posted on Facebook that he had “a good and busy start to his Beijing visit.”

“Such regular high-level exchanges continue to build on the strong foundation of our bilateral relationship,” he added.

Had a good and busy start to my Beijing visit. I called on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, caught up with Vice Premier and…

Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Thursday, 23 May 2019

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