15 June 2021
For Youths

“Navigating China’s Changing Socioeconomic Landscape as a Foreign Business Partner” - Singapore Business Federation Chairman, Mr Lim Ming Yan’s Dialogue Session with BCYC Members

Business China Youth Chapter (BCYC) organised a Dialogue Session with the Chairman of Singapore Business Federation Mr Lim Ming Yan on 21 March 2021. Titled “Navigating China’s Changing Socioeconomic Landscape as a Foreign Business Partner”, the session was attended by 20 BCYC members and was moderated by fellow BCYC member Li Muhan. Safe distancing measures were followed strictly throughout the session.

Overview of China’s Economy

Mr Lim began with a macro view of China’s economy. He reflected that China has been managing the COVID-19 situation well domestically and has emerged from the pandemic well before other economies; as economic activities are now almost on par with pre-COVID levels. China’s economic presence is evidently significant as it overtook the US to become EU’s and India’s biggest trading partner in 2020. Closer to home, ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner. 

Evolving US-China Relations

On US-China relations, Mr Lim opined that the recently concluded “Alaska Talks” has provided senior officials an avenue to raise important issues, which was a “good start” in setting the context of a “new normal” in both countries’ interactions. He also described the US as an economic superpower and market which remains important to the world, as well as reaffirmed China’s importance to Singapore.  

Navigating the Chinese Business Landscape

The moderator, Muhan, reflected that China today, and before it became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was very different. Mr Lim described China as exuding “tremendous potential” in its economic transition and was a “complex market” which “offered a spirit of adventure” to those with a “risk appetite”. It was ultimately “up to one’s call” to exercise judgement in such an environment.

In navigating the Chinese business landscape, Mr Lim emphasised the importance of “values” and cautioned against choosing “temporary advantages” at the expense of the company’s reputation and credibility in the longer term. He also highlighted the need to assemble a team of “committed and right people”, as he had done in his earlier years as the former CEO of CapitaLand China. With this in mind, he brought together a mix of local, international and Singaporean team members, with different value-add and contributions to the team.

Future Trends in Different Industries 

From Mr Lim’s business acumen in international markets to his role as Chairman of SBF, he said that there were lesser predictability and greater disruption to business models and technologies, as seen in the media and fossil fuel industries in this new decade. In this context, the Emerging Stronger taskforce, led by the Future Economy Council (FEC), had convened the industry-led alliances, “Alliance for Action” (AfAs), envisaged to allow the private and public sectors to work together to change things through an “agile approach”.

Mr Lim also introduced SBF’s “Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative” (IHCI) as seeking to transform people while getting buy-in from the top management team of companies, which would require a mindset shift. He added that beyond “regulators”, there must also be “promoters”, hence in this regard, the SBF had engaged trade associations and chambers.

Advice for Aspiring Youths 

Mr Lim concluded by drawing his sharing closer to the younger audience and offered the following advice: "One should always be learning, strive to find a niche and provide “value-add” to the team.” This would serve them well in an age of change.  

About Business China Youth Chapter 

BCYC is a voluntary group of youths that envisions to be the leading Singapore-based community that inspires youths to be China-savvy and facilitate their connections with China. Supported by Business China, BCYC has a vibrant calendar of activities which serve the needs of the BCYC community.  

To join Business China Youth Chapter, please download the application form and email to: bcyc@businesschina.org.sg .

This article is contributed by Business China Youth Chapter Member Mah Yi Xin (Amanda).
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The Dialogue Session was held before Phase 2 (Heightened Alert).