On Thursday, December 7, Singapore and China jointly announced their intention to establish a 30-day mutual visa exemption agreement as part of an effort to enhance people-to-people exchanges, taking advantage of improved flight connectivity in the post-pandemic era. This proposal was unveiled during the 19th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting, the highest-level annual bilateral forum between the two nations. The meeting, hosted at the Hilton Tianjin Eco-City hotel, saw a range of agreements set to be signed.

This significant development marks the first JCBC meeting co-chaired by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Chinese Vice Premier Ding Xuexiang. Vice Premier Ding acknowledged that the number of Chinese students studying in Singapore has surpassed 40,000, recovering to pre-pandemic levels. He emphasized that the visa-free arrangement would enhance the convenience of people-to-people exchanges.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong expressed Singapore’s aspiration to surpass pre-pandemic levels in direct flight connectivity. He highlighted that the mutual 30-day visa-free arrangement, currently in the operational details negotiation phase, is expected to be implemented in early 2024. This move aims to strengthen bilateral relations by fostering increased people-to-people interactions.

Currently, Chinese citizens require a visa to enter Singapore, while Singaporeans with ordinary passports can enter China without a visa for 15 days for various purposes, including business, sightseeing, visiting relatives, and transit. The visa-free access was reinstated by China in July after a suspension of more than three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The enhancement of Singapore-China relations to an “All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership” preceded this development. It followed Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Beijing in March, during which he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The JCBC serves as a platform for reviewing substantive collaboration between Singapore and China, setting the direction for future cooperation. Deputy Prime Minister Wong, currently on a four-day official visit to Beijing and Tianjin, expressed anticipation of signing over 20 memoranda of understanding and agreements during the JCBC meeting, further solidifying the bilateral relationship.


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