China can lead the world towards greater integration: Chan Chun Sing

In a photo taken on Oct 17, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing speaks during an interview.
In a photo taken on Oct 17, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing speaks during an interview.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SHANGHAI - The world lies at the crossroads of fragmentation and integration, and, as one of the largest countries and economies, China has "great responsibilities" in helping to determine which path the world should take, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Wednesday (Nov 6).

"Today, what the world needs most is leadership," he said.

In a world beset by turbulence, Beijing can lead by helping to set standards of behaviour in areas including economics, politics, and technology, Mr Chan told a forum in Shanghai.

"China has the opportunity to seize this moment in history to win the world over with superior technology, economic management, geopolitical perspective and so forth," he said, adding that the best way to do so, was not with force.

"China in its long history has always known that its benevolence will win over the world more than its might," he said.

Mr Chan was speaking to business leaders, scholars and government officials at the Singapore-China Forum organised by Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao and The Paper, a Shanghai newspaper.

The forum is one of the events held on the sidelines of the China International Import Expo (CIIE), which Mr Chan attended on his two-day visit.

During his speech to open the forum, he noted that many people were worried about the uncertainties in the world, which included the trade war between China and the United States.

But Mr Chan said the best way to win a fight was not by pummelling an opponent into defeat, but winning over the rest of the world such that the opponent becomes irrelevant.

 
 
 
 

"To truly seek to win, we have to surpass ourselves... we will win over the rest of the world through superior standards, not just in standards of technology, but standards of behaviour and governance," he said.

China's own development trajectory has been underpinned by greater and greater integration with the world economy and this would continue for the long term, he said, adding that the next lap of global progress hinged also on the integration of the global economy.

During an interview with Singapore reporters later, Mr Chan was asked about global frustrations over China's pace of opening and failure to change unfair trade practices.

He responded by noting that China's outward investment has exceeded inward investments for the past few years.

This means it is in China's interest to harmonise its standards with the rest of the world to ensure its own outward investments are treated fairly, he said.

While some countries might be anxious about China's pace of change, Mr Chan said the overall trend "bodes well for the world".

"We can certainly have confidence that this larger trend will drive China towards a greater integration with the world, harmonising their rules and standards with the world," he said.

On Singapore's part, it has through the years complemented China's development needs through various projects, said Mr Chan.

Bilateral initiatives today focus largely on connectivity - building not just physical links but digital and financial ones as well, within China, and from China to Singapore and other parts of the world.

"We both share a higher order aspiration that is similar, together we can set new standards in our approach to international affairs, in the way we govern our countries, and in the way we meet diverse aspirations of our diverse people, these are all common aims that we have between both countries," he said.

On Wednesday, Mr Chan's final day in China, he also toured the Singapore exhibits at the CIIE and took part in a dialogue at another trade and investment forum by the Singapore Business Federation.

He also witnessed the signing of three deals between Singapore firms - Tembusu Partners, PIL Group and Westcom Solutions - and their Chinese partners.