Suzhou project : How it all began – SM Lee
Asia Society business conference ——————————–
SENIOR Minister Lee Kuan Yew yesterday recounted how the idea of the Suzhou industrial township project in China germinated.
It all started with China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Singapore in 1978, he said.
The Chinese leader was impressed with what he saw during his visit, he told The Asia Society’s business conference, when a delegate asked him about the origins of the Suzhou project.
Mr Lee said the Chinese leader found Singapore’s multi-racial society to be quite different from what he had been told before he came here.
Mr Deng was struck by Singapore’s good housekeeping and decided to use the Republic as a model for its own development planning, he recalled.
“Four hundred delegations arrived that year. Mayors, governors, party secretaries, they all wanted to be able to say: ‘I’ve seen it all, I’ve got to do it,”’.
This prompted the Singapore Government to offer to build a Singapore-style county comprising industrial, commercial and residential facilities in China.
Following 1 1/2 years of discussions, the Chinese government agreed to let Singapore build a 70 sq km township in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, 80 km from Shanghai.
Mr Lee said the project was being carried out at two levels.
At the government level, Singapore would share its knowledge and experience of administering a township with the Suzhou government under a software transfer programme.
At the commercial level, a consortium of Singapore companies was formed to undertake the investment, development and management of the township.
“I think in five years, we will see the beginning of Jurong Town Corporation taking shape in Suzhou and, in 10 years, we should be able to repeat the project anywhere else in China or Vietnam.”
He said if the Suzhou project took off, Singapore would be well placed to take advantage of other opportunities that would open up in China.
On the economic advantages of the project to Singapore, he said that it would enable the younger generation of Singaporeans to forge closer links with the Chinese and understand them better.
When the township is developed fully, it will be home to 600,000 people and provide employment to 360,000 workers.