S'pore-China ties: progressing with the times
Business China hopes to continue spearheading initiatives to encourage Singaporeans to be China-ready and China-savvy.
By Sun Xueling
SINCE 2010, the Business China Awards has honoured exemplary individuals or organisations for their significant contributions to Singapore-China relations.
This year's Business China Excellence Award celebrates an individual who through his work enabled Singapore and Singaporeans to have a better understanding of the historical links between China and Singapore and thus better comprehend contemporary developments in China. His work on the overseas Chinese also increased international awareness of the uniqueness of Chinese communities in countries outside China.
The Business China Enterprise Award, on the other hand, honours an institution which has shown long and sustained commitment to bilateral trade and economic ties between China and Singapore, a commitment that started in the 1930s. They continue to be a cornerstone in facilitating China's "One Belt One Road" strategy and the use of the renminbi in international transactions. The business community in Singapore is pleased to partner them to support these growing business areas.
The Business China Awards is also forward looking. This year's Business China Young Achiever Award celebrates an individual who is charting new paths in the digital economy and building new business links between Singapore and China in the fast growing fields of technology, Internet and media.
The awards represent Business China's belief that deep mutual understanding, sustained interconnectivity and continued collaboration, are key to developing strong ties between the two countries that keep up with the times.
Business China was set up in 2007 by Singapore founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and witnessed by then-Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, to cultivate a group of young Singaporeans interested and ready to engage China and to establish business relationships.
Singapore adopts a long-term view of our partnership with China. The Suzhou Industrial Park in 1994, the Tianjin Eco-City in 2007, and the latest Chongqing Connectivity Initiative in 2015, exemplify the partnership between Singapore and China during the different phases of China's development. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, patron of Business China, said at the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou this September, the broad relationship between Singapore and China is progressing on many fronts.
The G-to-G projects not only yield economic benefits but also provide Singaporean companies and agencies the opportunity to work collaboratively with their China counterparts. These personal relationships, built over many years through overcoming common challenges together, laid a strong foundation of trust between our two countries. These interactions extend beyond business links to include exchanges on corporate and social governance.
In the nine years since Business China's inception, China has risen to be the second largest economy in the world and the largest trading partner to some 128 countries. On a PPP basis, some economists project that China's GDP will exceed USA's within 5-10 years. Meanwhile, China is also undergoing economic and political transformation. The need to develop a group of Singaporeans with the ability to engage their Chinese counterparts at different levels and understand China's economic and political developments is even more critical now than before.
Bilingualism is certainly a helpful tool and one of Singaporeans' advantages when developing China-savviness. But what is perhaps even more important is the ability to navigate the complex Chinese market and combine it with our competencies such as familiarity with international market norms or having specific industry knowledge.
Therefore, it is not only about developing China expertise but developing China expertise that will facilitate stronger linkages and ties with Singapore ie Xin Zhong Tong.
Business China has started engaging more Singaporeans with relevant experiences in China to share their stories with young Singaporeans. They can be role models and help young Singaporeans identify the opportunities and challenges, set their own goals and develop their capabilities. One such event in 2016 was held at BASH ("Build Amazing Startups Here") Ayer Rajah, where five Singaporeans who had made a name for themselves in the Chinese venture capital scene shared the competencies and attitudes needed to succeed in China.
Business China also conducts an annual Advanced Leaders Programme for young upcoming professionals identified by their organisations as having the need to develop China expertise. The course focuses on the business environment of China. A key feature is a high-powered trip to a specially selected Chinese city with the opportunity to meet political office holders as well as leading Chinese companies.
The Digital Economy brings new opportunities for both Singapore and China. The digital revolution has enabled China to leapfrog a generation, overcoming infrastructural and institutional constraints to bring cheaper and better goods and services nearer and faster to customers.
Under the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative, a new "digital superhighway" will be developed to provide high speed connectivity between Singapore and Chongqing.
The Guangzhou Knowledge City is also developing a Smart Eco Technology Demonstration Centre to be completed in 2020. This will be a good springboard for companies to exchange business ideas and opportunities with their Chinese counterparts.
Recognising this important new development, Business China organised thematic discussion panels during the FutureChina Global Forum 2016 which featured speakers from outfits such as Alibaba, Tencent, Didi and Qunar.com to create greater awareness among our Singaporean audience of the new technologies and business models in China's large and evolving consumer market. Thematic discussion panels around healthcare, and smart solutions for homes and smart monitoring were also featured given China's rapidly ageing population.
In July 2016, Business China inked an MOU with the China Internet Development Foundation to strengthen bilateral collaboration in infocomm technology, mobile applications, the Internet of Things, and further develop the digital links between both countries. These initiatives will boost connectivity and linkages between our two countries in the digital world, supplementing the strong connectivity that we have in people-to-people, trade and transport links.
Building on the strong foundations laid in the past, a new way forward in Singapore China relations is being forged.
Singapore is one of the first few countries to be involved in the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Singapore remains committed to building a mutually beneficial relationship with China through co-investing in projects in China and supporting China's internationalisation efforts through the Belt Road initiative. Singapore is also one of the largest offshore renminbi centres outside Greater China, and actively promotes the use of renminbi in international transactions.
The partnership between Singapore and China is an evolving one which is forward looking and mutually beneficial.
Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Business China. We hope to continue to spearhead initiatives to encourage Singaporeans to be China-ready and China-savvy and do our part to strengthen Singapore-China bilateral relations.
The writer is CEO of Business China
Courtesy of The Business Times, 23 November 2016