SINGAPORE — “Singapore plays a pivotal role in building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and over 20 forums themed on the Belt and Road Initiative have been held in Singapore in 2016, which highlights all walks of life in Singapore attach great importance to the initiative with forward thinking,” said Chinese Ambassador to Singapore Chen Xiaodong in a forum focused on educational exchange between the two countries in December.
Since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013, it has got off to a good start, producing important early-harvest in various fields. It’s estimated that China has signed agreements on jointly building the Belt and Road with 40 countries and international organizations and concluded production capacity cooperation agreements with 20 countries.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is making solid progress and demonstrating bright prospects. Asian countries are the main participants and beneficiaries of Belt and Road cooperation,” said President of the China Public Diplomacy Association Li Zhaoxing at Singapore Regional Business Forum 2016 in August.
Organized by Singapore Business Federation (SBF), Singapore Regional Business Forum 2016 themed on “21st century Maritime Silk Road” has convened about 500 representatives in the regions, setting up a platform for business leaders and industry experts to share insights on regional connectivity, infrastructure, finance, ICT and people-to-people linkages in the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.
In his keynote speech, Li Zhaoxing, former foreign minister of China, stressed that the Belt and Road Initiative is not a solo for China itself, but a chorus performed by all countries along the road.
“The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is about trade, commerce and cultural interaction, which leads to thriving business, free flow of people and cultural integration,” said Li.
During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Singapore in November 2015, the two countries have agreed to enhance cooperation in areas such as financial services, aviation, logistics, information and technologies. In January 2016, Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), a pace-setting project, was officially launched in Chongqing Municipality in southwest China. A series of cooperation has been carrying out based on the third government-to-government project this year.
SBF Chairman Teo Siong Seng said the CCI will be a demonstration project for the Belt and Road Initiative under the theme of “modern connectivity and modern services,” enabling synergistic flow in goods, capital and people.
Focused on the Belt and Road Initiative, pragmatic cooperation has been propelled between Singapore and China. In early March, Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese flagship newspaper of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), and SBF officially launched a portal dedicated to the initiative. The portal presents the latest developments, news, business opportunities, analyses, commentaries and a calendar of activities related to the initiative to its audience.
In April, China Construction Bank Corporation (CCB) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide 30 billion Singapore dollars ($21 billion) of financing services to support enterprises on infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. CCB also signed a MOU with Singapore Exchange (SGX) on the development of the capital market in Singapore.
In addition, Singapore branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC) in September agreed to extend up 50 billion yuan ($35 billion) to member companies of SBF in project financing and other professional services for infrastructure investments under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Similarly, ICBC signed a MOU with Surbana Jurong to strengthen collaboration with a full suite of comprehensive financial and engineering expertise for major urban and infrastructure projects related to the initiative.
Chairman of Surbana Jurong Liew Mun Leong said the group is optimistic about the vast infrastructure opportunities in Asia brought up by the Belt and Road initiative.
ICBC also agreed to promote Singapore’s capital markets and support Chinese companies looking to list equities or bonds on SGX, with a focus on real estate investment trusts (REITs) and offshore RMB bonds.
In a word, China-Singapore cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative has deepened in 2016. Just as Chief Executive Officer of IE Singapore Lee Ark Boon has said, as the regional infrastructure hub, Singapore’s know-how and networks with China and Southeast Asia give Singapore-based companies a further advantage on projects under the initiative, and such cooperation will catalyze projects in physical and infoComm infrastructure and improve connectivity.