March 24, 2015 – Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew laid the foundation for strong bilateral ties between Singapore and China. Zheng Bijian, the powerful former Permanent Vice-President of China’s Central Party School, said this after he paid his last respects to Mr Lee.
It was a friendship spanning more than three decades, and Mr Zheng – one of China’s great strategists and political adviser to former President Hu Jintao – said Mr Lee was an inspiration to him.
“Our personal friendship was on a spiritual level as we had a common goal, which was for the Asia-Pacific region to prosper peacefully. And from China’s point of view, a peaceful rise and a peaceful development. In my opinion, that’s something he agrees with,” said Mr Zheng.
“He greatly inspired me, and I’m very sad (over Mr Lee’s passing),” added Mr Zheng.
Mr Lee is seen as being instrumental in building the foundation for China-Singapore relations. Since his first visit in 1976, he had visited China more than 30 times and met with many former Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao as well as the current President Xi Jinping.
Mr Zheng said: “He played a very important role in developing good bilateral ties between Singapore and China. He was one of the pioneers.”
Chen Deming, former Chinese Commerce Minister, said: “Mr Lee was a world-class political leader and strategist. He also laid a foundation for China-Singapore relations, especially in my field of work. Mr Lee made a very important contribution to China’s early development. I first knew him over 20 years ago, when we collaborated on the Suzhou Industrial Park.”
Chinese leadership will attend Mr Lee’s funeral in Singapore, though they have not indicated who yet. Still, several top Chinese leaders including President Xi have already sent their condolences to Singapore. Chinese state media also gave prominent coverage to Mr Lee’s passing.
Meanwhile, a constant stream of mourners made their way to the Singapore embassy in Beijing to sign a condolence book. Some went with flowers while others brought along their families and even employees.
“My sons know that I’ve always admired Mr Lee, so it’s important that today, they come with me to pay our last respects to the man who built Singapore,” said a man. “I was born in the 1970s, and to see the transformation of Singapore makes me feel that the credit belongs to him. Without him, there would not be us, no Singapore,” said another.
The Singapore Embassy in Beijing will welcome those offering condolences through Sunday.