DPM Heng Swee Keat at China Construction Bank Singapore's 25th Anniversary Concert

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 19 September 2023

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the China Construction Bank Singapore’s 25th Anniversary Concert on 19 September 2023.


Mr Zhu Jing (朱憬), Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Singapore 

Ms Sun Nianbei (孙念北), General Manager, China Construction Bank Singapore Branch 

Ladies and Gentlemen

A very good evening. I am delighted to join you this evening to celebrate the 25th anniversary of China Construction Bank Singapore. 

Let me first congratulate China Construction Bank (or CCB) on achieving this milestone in Singapore. Back in 1998, there was great uncertainty as Asian economies were just emerging from the Asian Financial Crisis. CCB’s decision to set up in Singapore was therefore an important demonstration of faith in Asia’s future, and confidence that Asia was ready to bounce back. 

Over the past 25 years, CCB has continuously deepened its presence and built meaningful partnerships in Singapore, to become one of CCB’s largest overseas nodes. When I was heading the Monetary Authority of Singapore, CCB was still an Offshore Bank, and was keen to expand its operations in Singapore to deepen trade and investment linkages between China, Singapore and the region. I had a very productive meeting with the then-Chairman Guo Shuqing on CCB’s plans in the region. 

After further discussions, MAS upgraded the Singapore branch to a wholesale bank in 2010. Since then, CCB has been further upgraded to a Qualifying Full Bank (QFB) in 2020, and is expanding its capabilities in areas such as commodity trade finance, wealth management, investment banking and Fintech. 

This expansion is timely, as it enables CCB to support Chinese companies seeking to venture out to seize new opportunities, while also supporting efforts to internationalise the renminbi. It is also valuable for Singapore companies, who have been venturing to China for years and now can get even better support to enter the Chinese market. 

Given Singapore’s strengths as an international financial centre, there will be many opportunities for CCB and Singapore to grow together. 

Indeed, financial cooperation is a key pillar of the robust and longstanding partnership between Singapore and China. 

Just a few months ago, we upgraded our relationship to an “All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership” (全方位高质量的前瞻性伙伴关系). The expansion of our financial cooperation reflects this. Today, key Chinese banking groups have set up operations in Singapore, of which three Chinese banks, including CCB, have QFB licences. 

The scope of activities has also grown steadily. Beyond the traditional corporate and commercial lending, Chinese financial institutions now provide green financing solutions, offshore debt raising, and even conduct FinTech and innovation research in Singapore.

Our regulators have also expanded cooperation into emerging areas like sustainable and digital finance. Our shared objective is to strengthen cross-border collaboration and facilitate deeper capital market connectivity within the region. 

It is timely that we are deepening our bilateral relationship, including in finance, amid an uncertain global environment. The world is facing high inflation and high interest rates at a time when we are also grappling with geopolitical uncertainties, and existential challenges like climate change. 

But we need not be pessimistic. The Chinese term 危机 (crisis) reminds us that 危难中必有契机 – amid uncertainties and challenges, there will also be opportunities to be gleaned. Chairman Tian Guoli outlined these areas in his message, which I agree with. I look forward to welcoming Chairman Tian to Singapore and to continue our discussions. 

The first concrete area where China and Singapore can deepen collaboration is in sustainable finance, to facilitate the green transition and achieve sustainable development. This is an area where CCB has significant expertise. CCB developed a transition bond framework in China in 2021, and led the research on transition finance under the China Green Finance Committee. In that same year, CCB issued a two-year offshore transition bond worth RMB 2 billion – the largest in the world – in Singapore. 

I am therefore glad that CCB has recently joined the China-Singapore Green Finance Taskforce, and look forward to CCB’s contributions in deepening bilateral cooperation and facilitating greater public-private collaboration to support Asia’s green transition. 

Fintech is another area with significant potential for further collaboration.  Innovations in digital finance and technology have improved access to, and the efficiency of banking services. In turn, this will enable the effective channeling of resources to productive sectors, to support real growth and jobs. 

The Fintech innovation lab that CCB has recently set up in Singapore will be a good platform to share research and technology, and broker new partnerships. I look forward to the CCB building up capabilities and contributing to our ecosystem here. 

The third area that CCB could explore enhancing is infrastructure financing in the region. Infrastructure is an important enabler of economic development, especially in Asia. President Xi Jinping initiated the Belt and Road Initiative a decade ago. 

Given CCB’s strengths in infrastructure financing, we can explore how to develop infrastructure that is sustainable, both from the commercial and environmental angles. I welcome the CCB to join in this effort through platforms such as Infrastructure Asia, and contribute your expertise. 

Let me now say a few words in Mandarin.