Singapore needs to nurture its own China specialists

To cope with a rising China, Singapore needs to cultivate its own China specialists.

A rising China presents Singapore with many new business opportunities.

However, our domestic setting is not that conducive for the learning of Chinese. Many young people do not have a positive attitude towards learning the language.

In our multilingual nation, being able to speak simple Mandarin is sufficient. But in 10 to 20 years, when China becomes more developed and plays a more influential role on the international stage, we will have to improve our command of the language.

Additionally, there will be a surge in demand for Singaporeans who have a good grasp of current affairs and the rich history and culture of China.

We have had distinguished diplomats, such as Professors Tommy Koh and Chan Heng Chee, who did an excellent job in managing our bilateral affairs with the United States for many years.

With a rising China, we urgently need their parallels who can help Singapore foster a deeper relationship with the country.

We also need experts like Professor Wang Gungwu, chairman of the East Asian Institute and ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, whose views on China are widely sought after.

We need to produce more China specialists to serve in our Government, universities, think-tanks, organisations and large corporations.

Just like the scholarships we have to nurture cyber-security specialists and sports talent, we should offer scholarships to produce local China specialists and expose these young scholars to China.

Only with the support and assistance from the Government can we produce enough China experts to meet the increased demand in the future.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore needs to nurture its own China specialists'. Print Edition | Subscribe