China 'can still offer many opportunities despite slowdown'

China's economic slowdown may have affected the region, but there are still plenty of opportunities that the world's No. 2 economy can offer in its urbanisation process that will drive consumption and therefore demand for goods, a Chinese expert has said.

Dr Wang Huiyao, founder and president of think-tank Centre for China and Globalisation, told a forum yesterday that by 2030, China is expected to have an urban population of one billion, driving up consumption tremendously. He was among six panellists speaking on opportunity in a time of uncertainty at the Singapore Forum.

Structural reforms in China resulting in the streamlining of procedures are also increasing opportunities for investments, he said.

Citing Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's speech at the forum's opening last Friday, in which he said China's enormous outbound investment capital is leading to a new phase of globalisation, Dr Wang said 120 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad last year and spent over US$100 billion (S$135 billion).

Through them, China is playing a bigger role in the global economy and tourism, he said.

Dr Wang Huiyao said 120 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad last year and spent over US$100 billion (S$135 billion). Through them, China is playing a bigger role in the global economy and tourism.

Another role China can play in the global economy is through the internationalisation of the yuan, said Indonesian Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong at the close of the forum yesterday. He said the process, which China is driving, would be a natural solution for the massive retreat of the greenback as the American economy recovers and capital flows back to the United States.

Apart from China, India is also a bright spot in Asia, with its young population and growing middle class driving demand for goods and services, said Mr Vinod Kumar, managing director and chief executive of Tata Communications.

As for technology and the jobs it is replacing, The Straits Trading Company executive chairman Chew Gek Khim said it is not to be feared.

Jobs lost are compensated by jobs created - while machines have replaced carpark attendants, there are now new professions, such as party planners, that were unheard of in the past, she said. "With the demise of one industry, it doesn't mean that another can't come up. It's just difficult to imagine at this time."

Technology can also help the marginalised catch up with mainstream society, said Alibaba Group vice- president Gao Hongbing at a separate session. "They may be farmers or small and micro enterprises that can't be served by large financial institutions. These are people who need Internet tech to help them" raise capital, expand and innovate.

•Additional reporting by Chong Koh Ping.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 03, 2016, with the headline 'China 'can still offer many opportunities despite slowdown''. Print Edition | Subscribe