Tuesday, 13 November 2018 –Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered the 44th Singapore Lecture “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity 在开放融通中共创共享繁荣” at the St Regis Hotel on 13 November 2018. In Singapore to attend the 33rd ASEAN Summit, Premier Li’s visit to Singapore began on a positive note with the signing of an upgraded free trade agreement (FTA) between both countries, which promised greater protection and access into the Chinese market for Singaporean businesses.
Mr Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China delivered the 44th Singapore Lecture “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity在开放融通中共创共享繁荣”, organised by ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute in collaboration with Business China, on 13 November 2018. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Business China)
The Lecture’s Opening Remarks were delivered by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean. DPM Teo praised China’s remarkable progress and noted that since reforms were implemented 40 years ago, China had lifted 800 million people out of poverty. A major player on the world stage, it is now an influential trading partner of key global economies and a net exporter of capital. Projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are centered on promoting regional integration and stronger people-to-people ties. However, China remains a country with its fair share of challenges such as income inequality, sustainable growth and environmental sustainability.
Premier Li delivered his Singapore Lecture in Mandarin. He began with a historical anecdote—it was on this very day in 1978 that Deng Xiaoping had arrived in Singapore to meet then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The Sino-Singapore relationship has since grown from strength to strength, as Premier Li expressed deep gratitude to Singapore for its significant contributions toward China’s economic development. Premier Li was equally fascinated by the creativity and innovation that he believed were imbued in Singaporean culture.
Premier Li noted that as free trade had been a catalyst for China’s growth, tariffs and global contestations were not only detrimental to China but to the entire world economy. Premier Li underscored China’s support for fair trade in his lecture and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to its policy of a peaceful, open dialogue between its trading partners. While China was prepared to face “fresh challenges” in an uncertain geopolitical economy, he believed that sincere, mutual cooperation was key to overcoming such challenges. Premier Li was also pleased to announce the setting of two important goals by the Chinese government, namely, the conclusion of the RCEP agreement by 2019 and for the Code of Conduct (COC) negotiations of the South China Sea to be completed in three years.
Premier Li also paid tribute to the Chinese people in his lecture. He recognised that China’s position as a rising power was a result of the hard work of the Chinese people. It was this strong sense of determination and fortitude that has transformed China into the world’s second largest economy. However, he was quick to downplay any forms of Chinese hegemony. Despite China’s peaceful rise in the form of strong economic outputs and GDP growth, Premier Li declared that prosperity and cooperation for all its partners remain the key goal.
Premier Li’s lecture lasted an hour and was attended by an audience of more than 500 people, including foreign dignitaries, members of the diplomatic corp, local business leaders and the general public. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat, attended the lecture. Premier Li answered questions on a range of topics including: youth exchanges and student internships between Singapore and China to the ongoing U.S-China trade war. The 44th Singapore Lecture was organised by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in collaboration with Business China.