While the Singapore development story is often touted as one of the most successful cases in the world, there are still many things the Republic can learn from China, in particular its people’s thirst for knowledge and drive to get ahead, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday evening.

His comments, made at a dialogue at the annual FutureChina Global Forum, were in response to a question on what Singapore thinks it can learn from China.

Mr Lee said he respected how driven the Chinese are in keeping up with the happenings around the world so as to absorb lessons and help propel the country forward. Singapore, too, needs that ambition in its next phase of development, he added. “(The Chinese) are following developments and ideas in many countries and looking at how others are dealing with challenges, whether it’s in transport, environment or economic development. And they’re actively thinking how to apply that in China’s circumstances and try to do better,” said Mr Lee.

“I think that however developed you may be, you must have that drive in order to push forward and to achieve something different. And to feel and have that sense at the end of the day that I’ve done something and it’s more than what my ancestors have handed to me … That’s what Singapore needs if we look forward to our next phase of development.”

The Prime Minister also commented that the Singapore society has evolved, with the younger generation born at a time when the Republic has emerged from a challenging nation-building stage. Their priorities and life experiences naturally differ from those of his time and his father’s generation, he said.

“The younger generation’s starting point is different from ours and they place their goals further than us … We can’t expect them to share our sentiment because the world has changed, but we hope they remember that this is still a society where we have to respect one another and work together for a better future,” he said.

In addition to societal changes, the dialogue also touched on the possibility of China participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to which Mr Lee said there are merits to China doing so even though leaders of the Asia’s largest economy have yet to take an official stand on this. But all parties involved in the negotiations have to find a common ground for a successful trade partnership, he added.

China has proved to be a major economic force in the past few years and its prospects continue to look bright in the next five to 10 years, even though the country may have a bumpy ride in the short term due to its economic restructuring. “It’s difficult to predict the growth for China’s next economic cycle, but I’m confident that the long-term trend is one that is moving upwards,” said Mr Lee.

He also pointed out that China emerged as Singapore’s largest trading partner for the first time last year — overtaking Malaysia and Europe — adding that there is still room for further collaboration between the two nations.

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