Singapore and China have signed a visa-free agreement that will allow their citizens to travel to each other’s countries without a visa for up to 15 days. The agreement, which will take effect on February 1, 2024, is the first of its kind between China and a Southeast Asian country, and marks a new milestone in their bilateral relations.
The agreement was announced by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and China’s President Xi Jinping during Lee’s official visit to Beijing on January 26, 2024. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of several other cooperation agreements on trade, investment, education, culture, and health.
A Boost for Tourism and Trade
The visa-free agreement is expected to boost tourism and trade between Singapore and China, which are already close economic partners. According to official statistics, China is Singapore’s largest trading partner, while Singapore is China’s largest foreign investor. In 2023, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $136 billion, an increase of 12% from the previous year.
The visa-free agreement will also benefit the millions of tourists who visit each other’s countries every year. In 2023, Singapore received 3.2 million visitors from China, making it the second-largest source of tourists after Indonesia. Meanwhile, China welcomed 1.5 million visitors from Singapore, making it the fourth-largest destination after Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
The visa-free agreement will make travel more convenient and affordable for both sides, as they will no longer need to apply for a visa or pay a fee. It will also encourage more people to explore the diverse attractions and cultures of both countries, and foster greater mutual understanding and friendship.
A Sign of Trust and Friendship
The visa-free agreement is not only a practical measure, but also a sign of trust and friendship between Singapore and China, which have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990. The two countries have cooperated on various areas, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative, the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership.
The visa-free agreement also reflects the shared vision and values of Singapore and China, which are both committed to promoting peace, stability, and development in the region and the world. The two countries have supported each other on various international issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and multilateralism.
The visa-free agreement is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Singapore-China relationship, which has overcome many challenges and uncertainties over the years. It is also a symbol of the confidence and optimism that both countries have for the future of their partnership, which will continue to grow and prosper in the years to come.