At the waterfront of the Singapore River, an exhibition of porcelain bowls and gold artifacts dating back to China's Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) offers a glimpse to how this region was importantly situated on an ancient trade route.
The thousand-year-old relics, displayed at Singapore's Asian Civilizations Museum, were discovered from an Arab ship carrying goods from China to today's Middle East. The ship sank just off the shores of Sumatra and remained untouched before it was discovered in 1998.
Historical recordings and archaeological discoveries have repeatedly demonstrated this region's prominence in marine transportation since ancient times. Nowadays, Singapore, boasting one of the region's busiest sea ports, acquires a new role as a hub for the flow of capital and technologies.
Chan Chun Sing, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, said the country plays a unique role in connecting Chinese investments and technologies with overseas markets, especially those in Southeast Asia.
China has the financial capital to invest, and technologies including digital ones to share, while Singapore has the financial and legal platforms as well as the expertise to connect them with other markets, Chan told Xinhua recently.
A number of Chinese companies have already chosen Singapore as their bases for venturing overseas, mainly to Southeast Asian markets.
OneConnect Financial Technology Singapore Co. Ltd, a member of Ping An Group of China, is based in Singapore. The company is currently marketing Fintech products from China to financial institutions in Southeast Asian countries.
Tan Bin Ru, chief executive officer of the company, said they had developed customers in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.
She said Ping An Group in China has advanced financial technologies such as facial recognition, big data analysis and blockchain, which are important for financial institutions like banks as they try to upgrade and digitalize their services.
Alibaba, a Chinese technology giant, has also set its research and development (R&D) center in Singapore and put the international headquarters of Alibaba Cloud here, utilizing the country's richness in talents and advantages.
Southeast Asian countries, with booming markets and young populations, are becoming more attractive for international business operators and investments, including those from China.
In this region, the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) collectively boasts a population of around 600 million and a combined GDP of nearly three trillion US dollars. The region's trade and connections with China is on the rise. ASEAN as a whole has became China's second-largest trading partner in the first half of 2019, surpassing the United States.
According to Chan, Singapore and China have the potential for closer cooperation, including cooperation in third-party markets and enhancing connectivity in a broader sense.
He suggested that the "hard connection", which refers to cooperation in infrastructure and industrial projects, could be accompanied by the "soft connection", which means connectivity in acquiring financial, logistics services as well as sharing technologies and expertise.
From the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park launched over two decades ago, to the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity implemented in 2015, the cooperation between Singapore and China has demonstrated a trend of the above-mentioned kind, said the minister.
Facing the future, as China opens more extensively to the world, the connection and cooperation will grow even stronger. Singapore's cooperation with China in this regard is expected to advance accordingly, he added.