China–Singapore relations

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China–Singapore relations
Map indicating locations of China and Singapore



People's Republic of China – Singapore relations officially started on October 3, 1990. [1] Diplomatic missions were established in the early 1990s based on trade and the warming of ties from other ASEAN countries towards mainland China. While relations between the two countries are strong they began to falter in 2016 after numerous high-profile events, including Singapore's stance against China's aggression in the South China Sea dispute, Singapore's support for US presence in Asia and the seizing of Singaporean army vehicles, caused friction between the two countries.[2]


Historic links between the two nations' people began much earlier than the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949. As a colonial state under British Malaya rule, most early Chinese migrants came as labourers into Singapore escaping poverty and war. They came to what was known as Nanyang to the Chinese to Singapore, which was part of the Straits Settlements. Many ethnic Chinese Singaporeans derived their ancestral roots in southern China from Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan provinces.[3]

In the 1970s, People's Republic of China and Singapore began unofficial relations. This led to the exchange of Commercial Representatives' Offices between the two nations in 1981. In 1985, commercial air services between mainland China and Singapore commenced.[1]

Diplomatic ties between the two countries officially began in 1990. On 3 October 1990, Singapore revised diplomatic relations from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. The relationship between Singapore and the PRC has since improved significantly.[4] In 2004, shortly before the current Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong took office from the then incumbent Goh Chok Tong, he made a visit to Taiwan to familiarise himself with the latest developments there.[5] Bilateral ties took a dive.[6] The People's Republic of China took offence to the trip due to the complicated political status of the region[6] Later in 2004, Chinese government put bilateral relations on hold.[7] In his maiden National Day Rally speech, Lee criticized the Taiwanese leadership and populace of overestimating the support they would receive if they were to declare Taiwan independence;[8]

Singapore was the last country in South East Asia to formally recognise the People's Republic of China out of respect to Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, North Korea and Thailand, sensitivities in the region and fears from neighbouring countries of communism in those times.[9] Singapore still maintains unofficial relations with the ROC, including the continuation of a controversial military training and facilities agreement from 1975.[10] This is due to a lack of usable space in built-up Singapore.[10] The People's Republic of China Chinese government has officially offered Singapore to shift its training facilities from Taiwan to Hainan Island,[10][11][12] with official annual military exercises known as Exercise Starlight (星光計畫)[13] in Taiwan.

Relations between the two countries gradually improved as China and Singapore forged agreements in free trade, education, foreign investment, modern armament and technology.[1] Examples are the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, which were constructed with the help of Singapore.

Singapore has taken neutral stance on the ongoing Territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In 2016, the Chinese state media controlled Global Times accused Singapore of raising the issue with the Non-Aligned Movement by filing complaint about China's actions. This prompted Singaporean ambassador to China Stanley Loh to deny accusations as nothing more but fabrications. An influential Chinese military advisor however issued threat that "Beijing should make Singapore pay the price for seriously damaging China's interests with retaliations and sanctions".[14]

In November 2016, the seizing of nine Singapore Army Terrex armoured personnel carrier (APC) vehicles by China in Hong Kong created friction between the two countries. The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department seized a shipment of nine Terrex APC vehicles, along with other equipment, belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal (formerly Kwai Chung Container Terminal).[15] Singapore confirmed ownership of the vehicles and equipment, which were being shipped back to Singapore from Taiwan, after a military exercise in Taiwan. The shipment was seized because American President Lines (APL), the private shipping company engaged by the Singapore military to handle the shipment, did not have the appropriate permits for the vehicles equipment.[16] The shipment was later moved to the Hong Kong Customs depot at Hong Kong River Trade Terminal and kept indoors since December 6, 2016.This was Hong Kong's biggest seizure of such equipment in the past twenty years.[17][18] In January 2017, 2 months after the Terrex APC vehicles were detained, Hong Kong Customs announced that the military vehicles would be returned to Singapore. Commissioner of the Customs and Excise Department, Roy Tang Yun-kwong, said that shipping company American President Lines would likely face criminal charges over the incident for suspected breach of the Hong Kong Law.[19]

Bilateral relations[edit]

The bilateral trade between China and Singapore developed rapidly in recent years and Singapore has maintained the first position among ASEAN countries in their trade with China.[1] China's transformation into a major economic power in the 21st century has led to an increase of foreign investments in the bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties.[20][21]

In 1998, volume of trade was US$8.154 billion in 1998.[1] In 1999, the trade value has increased to US$8.56 billion.[1] In 2000, the amount increased to US$10.821 billion.[1] In 2009, the total trade volume was SGD 75.1 billion (USD 58.4 Billion).[22]

Singapore is China's 9th largest trading partner.[23] While China is Singapore's 3rd largest trading partner which consisted of 10.1 percent of Singapore's total external trade from the previous year.[24]

China's export to Singapore were textiles, clothing, agriculture produce, petrochemical, metals, electromechanical equipment, feed, coking coal, shipping, machinery supplier, communication equipment and electronic components.[1]

Companies such as Capitaland and Breadtalk have made substantial inroads into China's domestic economy.[25][26][27] Others such as Temasek Holdings, Singapore Airlines have each invested in China Eastern Airlines.

In November 2015, China opened the China Cultural Centre in Singapore.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Brief Introduction to Relations between China and Singapore". Xinhua News Agency. 2002-05-17. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ John Wong. "Sino-Singapore Relations: Looking Back and Looking Forward". Singapore China Friendship Association.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ Kastner, Jens. "Taiwan-Singapore soup turns bitter-sweet". Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "China warns Singapore officials against future visits to Taiwan". 2004-08-26. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific,1 (21 February 2005). "Chinese ambassador says ties with Singapore fully restored". ProQuest ANZ Newsstand. 795797051.  .
  8. ^ "Prime Minister's Office - National Day Rally Videos & Speeches". Archived from the original on September 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^
  12. ^ "A David-and-Goliath tussle: FEER". 2004-08-05. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  13. ^ "星光計畫 - 台灣大百科全書 Encyclopedia of Taiwan". 2012-11-16. Archived from the original on 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2012-11-20. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Hong Kong armoured vehicles seizure: What we know". 
  16. ^ "Terrex seizure: SAF will learn from incident, says Ng Eng Hen". 
  17. ^ "Singapore military vehicles still detained, says Hong Kong customs". 
  18. ^ "Terrex vehicles seized by Hong Kong moved indoors". 
  19. ^ "Hong Kong to return seized armoured vehicles to Singapore". 
  20. ^ Quinlan, Joe (November 13, 2007). "Insight: China's capital targets Asia's bamboo network". Financial Times. 
  21. ^ Murray L Weidenbaum (1 January 1996). The Bamboo Network: How Expatriate Chinese Entrepreneurs are Creating a New Economic Superpower in Asia. Martin Kessler Books, Free Press. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-0-684-82289-1. 
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  24. ^ Xinhua (July 9, 2010). "Singapore exports benefit from FTA with China".  External link in |publisher= (help)
  25. ^ Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop (December 21, 2010). "Bakeries Claim a Growing Niche in China". I.H.T. Special Report: Doing Business in China.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  26. ^ (December 31, 2010). "CapitaLand China to sell stake in Senning Property".  External link in |publisher= (help)
  27. ^

External links[edit]