Future China Global Forum 2015

The Singapore thread in new Silk Road weave

The FutureChina Global Forum yesterday discussed the impact of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative. Members of the panel were (from left) Mr Claude Smadja (moderator), Mr Ding Hong Bin, Professor Justin Lin, Mr Stanley Loh, Mr Frederick Tsao and
The FutureChina Global Forum yesterday discussed the impact of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative. Members of the panel were (from left) Mr Claude Smadja (moderator), Mr Ding Hong Bin, Professor Justin Lin, Mr Stanley Loh, Mr Frederick Tsao and Professor Richard Hu.PHOTO: BUSINESS CHINA

China's initiative can tap resources found in S'pore and other countries along route

Singapore can play a key role in helping China develop its "Silk Road" links to South-east Asia, Africa and Europe, said local businessman Frederick Tsao yesterday.

Mr Tsao told the FutureChina Global Forum that China will need its own management team to carry out the wide range of infrastructure projects that the plans will demand but it will also need expertise from other nations.

And this is where Singapore can come in, he noted.

"They can stop here to build a control centre, to form a team comprising the Chinese, people from the region, Singaporeans as well as people of other nationalities, to go out there to execute the projects," said Mr Tsao, who is chairman of IMC Pan Asia Alliance.

This "One Belt, One Road" initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with the aim of spurring development along a continental route and a maritime route that links 65 countries.

CONTROL CENTRE

They can stop here to build a control centre, to form a team comprising the Chinese, people from the region, Singaporeans as well as people of other nationalities, to go out there to execute the projects.

MR FREDERICK TSAO, chairman of IMC Pan Asia Alliance

"It is an initiative to realise China's dream (of achieving prosperity) and help others realise their dream of transforming from a low- to medium- or high-income country," said Chinese economist Justin Lin at the session.

He said the initiative could help China secure a stable supply of raw materials to fuel growth as well as help it find new markets for products in which it has a competitive advantage, effectively killing two birds with one stone.

Political scientist Richard Hu pointed out that reassuring China's Asian neighbours that it wants to grow peacefully is another intent of the initiative.

The panellists at the forum noted that the One Belt, One Road initiative sets a new direction and strategic orientation for China and could be dubbed its second stage of opening up, namely to "go further west".

Besides economic development, it also involves people-to-people exchanges, policy coordination and financial integration for countries along this modern-day Silk Road.

However, Beijing must be mindful to frame these infrastructure projects as developments belonging to both China and the participating nations, said Mr Stanley Loh, Singapore's Ambassador to China.

He suggested taking a broader and wider view of the notion of connectivity, beyond that of roads, railroads and sea routes, to include aviation, financial services and Web- based connectivity like infocommunications and e-commerce.

It should also be open to participation from countries outside the region, said Mr Loh.

Chinese businessman Ding Hong Bin said that while Chinese companies are generally receptive of the initiative, they are also wary of the risks involved in such major cross-border projects.

The best way to reduce risk is to cooperate closely with the local firms, added Mr Ding, who is the president of Chinese construction firm Qingjian Group. Speaking in Mandarin, he told the forum: "This has two advantages - one, the government and public will welcome you, and two, through the joint venture, you share the risks with your local partner."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'The Singapore thread in new Silk Road weave'. Print Edition | Subscribe