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SINGAPORE'S flagship project in China, the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) just outside the Shanghai financial hub, marked its 20th anniversary last month. The past two decades have seen the project grow from strength to strength, and is a solid testament of China and Singapore government to government cooperation backed by businesses from both countries and a large number of MNCs located in the park.
SIP's tremendous success can be gauged from the fact that it is ranked as the second-best industrial park in China and regularly tops developmental indices. Its gross domestic product in 2013 was 190 billion yuan (S$39.6 billion), up from one billion yuan in 1994. With 3.4 per cent of Suzhou's land area and 5.2 per cent of its population, it contributes 15 per cent to the city's economy.
The China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park was born in February 1994 when then Chinese Vice-Premier Li Lanqing and then Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew signed an agreement for its joint development. The bilateral project was for Singapore to share its industrialisation experiences with China. Significantly, it was backed by the late Chinese strongman Deng Xiaoping.
Over the years, SIP has successfully developed into an internationally competitive high-tech industrial park with a modern garden-like urban development. Its focus has been on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, and to attract high-tech industries, especially software-focused information technology and biotechnology industries.
The significance of SIP is that it is the largest economic and technological cooperation project between the China and Singapore governments. The park occupies a 288 sq km area in eastern Suzhou, about a third of Singapore's size, of which 80 sq km belongs to the China and Singapore cooperation zone.
Today, SIP is home to some 25,000 companies, of which 91 are Fortune 500 firms, including giants like Samsung, UPS and Motorola.
SIP's majority shareholders include a China consortium, which holds 52 per cent of the project, and a Singapore consortium holding 28 per cent of the project -- Sembcorp has an 8.34 per cent share.
An interesting Singapore and China collaboration project is the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, as a model for sustainable development. It is the second flagship government to government project between Singapore and China after the Suzhou Industrial Park. This project was mooted by then Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2007, against the backdrop of rapid urbanisation and increasing global attention on the importance of sustainable development.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed a framework agreement in November 2007 for Singapore and China to jointly develop the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city.
Tianjin Eco-city's vision is to be a thriving city which is socially harmonious, environmentally friendly and resource efficient - a model for sustainable development. The site is located 40 km from Tianjin city centre and 150 km from Beijing. It is within the Tianjin Binhai New Area - one of the fastest growing regions in China. Tianjin Binhai New Area is in turn located in the Bohai Bay region covering Beijing, Tianjin and part of Hebei Province, which has been identified as the next growth engine in China, after the Pearl River delta and Yangtze River delta.
Having a total land area of 30 sq km, Tianjin Eco-city is planned for a population of 350,000. The goal is to develop the Eco-city over 10 to 15 years. Before the development of the Eco-city, the site comprised mainly salt pans, barren land and polluted water bodies.
Collaboration between Singapore and China in Tianjin Eco-city is taking place at both the government to government level and at the private sector level. Both Singapore and China have committed to share expertise and experience in areas like urban planning, environmental protection, resource conservation, water and waste management and sustainable development, as well as policies and programmes to promote social harmony in the Tianjin Eco-city.
A joint steering council co-chaired at Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and China's Vice-Premier level charts the strategic directions of the project. A joint working committee, co-chaired by Singapore's Minister for National Development and China's Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and comprising senior representatives from agencies involved in the Eco-city project on both sides, oversees the implementation of the project and the achievement of its key milestones.
Singapore agencies which are currently actively involved in the Tianjin Eco-city include the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Housing and Development Board (HDB), Building and Construction Authority (BCA), National Environment Agency (NEA), Public Utilities Board (PUB), Land Transport Authority (LTA) and IE Singapore.
At the private sector level, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Investment and Development Co Ltd, which was formed by a Singapore consortium and a Chinese consortium, each with a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture company, is the master developer for the project.
It also undertakes economic promotion of the Eco-city. That the project is undertaken by the private sector helps to ensure its commercial viability and enhance its scope for replication. Keppel Corporation leads the Singapore consortium, while the Chinese consortium is led by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holdings Co Ltd.
Even as SIP and Tianjin Eco-city forge ahead, news came last month that China has agreed to upgrade the status of another key bilateral project - the Guangzhou Knowledge City (GKC) - to a state-level strategic project. The project is designed to attract high-tech industries and creative talent. It is the first of a new model of cooperation between Singapore and China as it is led by the private sector and backed by the governments.
It has been reported that Chinese officials are hoping that the elevation of GKC to a state level strategic project will lead to policy measures for it that can help level the playing field with other state level projects in the province.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who was in China last month has said that he is looking forward to GKC's next stage of development which is attracting companies and talent.
To develop the project, Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City Investment and Development Co Ltd was incorporated in Guangzhou in September 2011. It is a 50-50 joint venture company established by Temasek-owned Singbridge and Guangzhou Development District Administrative Committee to be the master developer of GKC. The first phase will see the development of 6.27 sq km start up area, and subsequently the rest of the 123 sq km of GKC will be developed in stages.
The Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City project was jointly initiated by Wang Yang, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and then party secretary of Guangdong, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long and then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
Positioned as a new model for Sino-Singapore collaboration, GKC is adopting the operational approach of being "enterprise-led, government-driven and market-operated". With incentives to draw talent and high value industries, the project is hoped to become a catalyst for Guangdong's efforts to restructure its economy with high-tech industries.
A Sino-Singapore project that has begun to bear fruit is the Jilin food zone, Singapore's only agribusiness park in China. A pilot batch of Japanese rice from the food zone will be sold in Singapore in December.
Set up in 2012, the Sino-Singapore Jilin Food Zone, as the park is called, is in the north-eastern Chinese city of Jilin. It is aimed at demonstrating a replicable and scalable model zone for efficient production of safe and high-quality food.
The park is a joint venture by the Jilin city government and Singbridge. Having an area of 1,450 sq km, it is about twice the size of Singapore.
Already 15 investment projects worth more than 10 billion yuan have been attracted to the park. These include an integrated pig farm, a salmon farm and herbal beverage production.
A five billion yuan integrated pig farming project, a joint venture between Singapore Food Industries and Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group, will start operating by the middle of next year.
The Jilin food zone signed four memorandums of understanding with investors in Singapore last month, including one on a joint venture to make high quality infant milk powder.
A major milestone in the development of Singapore-China bilateral relations has been the development of the 330 ha Wuxi-Singapore Industrial Park (WSIP). One of Singapore's earliest bilateral cooperation projects, it is located in the Wuxi New District. WSIP's success in attracting high value semiconductor companies over the years has contributed to China's industrialisation and the growth of the country's coastal cities.
Wuxi is a Tier II city in China's Jiangsu province. With the Wuxi New District earmarked as the national base for high-tech products and advanced manufacturing, the WSIP is involved in phase one of a 400 ha Sino-Singapore Solar City photovoltaic park to attract companies producing renewable energy.
The WSIP has embarked on new developments to complement its industrial zone by adding commercial and residential elements, according to Singapore's Sembcorp which is involved in the project. The developments in the WSIP include a 99,000 sq m gross floor area business and information technologies park, Sino-Singapore International Park, and a mixed-use complex named the International Garden City. The latter project comprises two residential blocks with 17,000 sq m gross floor area and a 120-room serviced apartment block.