by Wang Lili, Xia Lixin
For the past 20-odd years, the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) has always been on the list of the topics that the leaders of the two countries have touched upon during their meetings, said Chan Soo Sen, the first chief executive officer (CEO) of the China-Singapore SIP Development Co Ltd.
"Moreover, they have also expressed satisfaction over its development which makes me feel relieved," said Chan in a recent interview with Xinhua.
In February 1994, China and Singapore signed an agreement to jointly set up the SIP, the first intergovernmental cooperation project between the two countries which also stands as the test field for China to draw experiences from Singapore on its path of reform and opening-up to the outside world.
Chan arrived in Suzhou in China's Jiangsu province in March 1994 on his appointment as the SIP's first CEO. At that time, the joint venture between the two countries had not yet been established, and the certificate to change the use of the allocated land from agricultural farm into industrial park had not yet been approved.
To save time, Chan proposed boldly to circle a trail area of two square km to begin with. Two months later in May 1994, the SIP officially kicked off thanks to Chan's proposals and efforts.
The joint venture was set up half a year later. The land usage application was ratified and the SIP construction went into full swing a year later.
Chan recalled that they had tried their best to attract investments. those foreign investors who were originally thinking of investing in Singapore but worried about the operating costs there were introduced to the SIP to do businesses in the joint program.
With concerted efforts from China and Singapore, the SIP had been a home to 156 projects from 92 companies which are on the list of the world's top-ranking 500 enterprises by the end of 2017. It had an accumulated 4,000 foreign-funded projects with a total investment of 30.3 billion U.S. dollars.
After his return to Singapore in 1996, Chan became a member of the parliament and a high-ranking minister in several governmental departments. He continued to make contribution to the exchanges and cooperation between Singapore and China after his retirement from politics.
The SIP had grown to rank the first among China's 219 state-level economic and technological development zones in an overall evaluation published in May this year by the Ministry of Commerce of China. It was also a top performer in key benchmarks including technological innovation and foreign trade.
Besides the SIP, China and Singapore have also embarked on two other intergovernmental cooperation projects. The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city was started in 2008 to jointly develop a socially harmonious, environmentally friendly and resource-conserving eco-city in Northern China's Tianjin. The China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity kicked off in January 2016 to pilot cooperation between the two countries in fields ranging from financial services, aviation, transportation, and logistics to information communications technology.
In the 1990s, Singapore shared its experiences with China in fields like attracting foreign investment and getting geared to the international norms through the joint program of the SIP, Chan said, adding their gaps regarding experiences and know-hows are getting narrower.
"We are joining hands to blaze a new trail together that has not been treaded before."
Singapore and China have greater potentials for future cooperations within the framework of China's Belt and Road Initiative, Chan Soo Sen said.