DPM Teo Chee Hean at FutureChina Global Forum 2016

SM Teo Chee Hean | 18 July 2016

Speech by DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the FutureChina Global Forum 2016 on 18 July 2016.


“China’s Economic Transformation – New Opportunities for Integration and Growth”




各位嘉宾, 女士们, 先生们


从1978年, 中国改革开放以来,国内生产总值 (GDP) 增 加了超过七十(70)倍,去年,达到十点八(10.8)万亿美元。

中国已经是世界第二大经济体,从2009年,也是世界最 大出口国。中国还会继续发展, 但是需要做出适当的调整。

多年来,新加坡和中国合作,包括在苏州,天津和重庆 的合作项目。


两国的合作已经从经济方面, 扩大到金融,环境,社会治 理, 文化交流等方面。

新加坡会继续加强现有的合作,也会找有意义的方式和 中国一起合作,在稳定繁荣的地区里继续发展双边关系。


Mr Chua Thian Poh, Chairman of Business China

Parliamentary Colleagues

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. 

Since China started its reform and opening up in 1978, its GDP has grown more than 70 times, reaching US$10.8 trillion in 2015.  China is already the world’s second largest economy, and has been the world’s largest exporter since 2009.  

China will continue to develop, but will need to make the appropriate adjustments.

Through these decades, Singapore has worked with China, including through our Government-to-Government projects in Suzhou, Tianjin and most recently Chongqing. Since 2013, Singapore was China’s largest foreign investor.   Last year, Singapore and China celebrated 25 years of diplomatic relations, and established an All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times. Our bilateral relationship has now expanded beyond economic cooperation, and also includes environment, finance, social governance, as well as cultural and people-to-people exchanges, etc. Singapore will continue to strengthen current areas of cooperation and find new meaningful ways to work in cooperation with China to grow and develop our relationship as part of a stable and prosperous region. 

Let me continue in English. 


China’s Economic Transformation

China’s economic development has now reached a new phase. President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road”initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) represent China’s efforts to engage and integrate into the regional and global economy.  China’s companies and entrepreneurs are now expanding beyond the Chinese market into our region and into the world. There are several drivers: 

First, China is going beyond being the “factory of the world” to creating global brands. It is moving up the manufacturing value chain, raising productivity levels and increasing automation. It is developing new sectors such as clean energy and electric vehicles, and complementing its manufacturing with business services such as design, marketing and logistics. China is already the largest market for electric cars and leading Chinese electric car maker BYD plans to double its domestic sales this year.  

Second, Chinese innovators and entrepreneurs are leapfrogging technology and traditional business models into the Digital Economy. China has increased spending on research and development, and is encouraging entrepreneurship by transferring technology from its research institutions and large enterprises. In the digital world, China-based Internet giants such as Alibaba and Tencent have revolutionised the market in China, providing greater connectivity and convenience for millions of Chinese consumers who were underserved by traditional business models. 

Third, Chinese companies are “venturing out” of China to source for new opportunities – markets, technologies and capital. This includes not just state-owned-enterprises, but energetic, vibrant private companies with new technologies and business models. 

However, China’s economic transformation also involves restructuring existing industries and jobs, dealing with capacity imbalances, and potentially displacing workers in traditional industrial sectors.  There will be difficult tradeoffs to make in implementing structural reforms and managing the social issues. While these issues are not easy to resolve, China has successfully managed reform over more than three decades of restructuring and growth. Similar resolve, policy innovation and strong public support for reforms will help China make the needed changes, and position its economy to seize the growth opportunities of the future.

With the changes in China’s economy, there are new opportunities for Singapore and China to work together, to add value to China’s future growth and regional integration. The peace and security in our own countries, and the region as a whole, is a pre-requisite for growth. 

Singapore’s role in China’s transformation

Over the years, Singapore has worked closely with China to support its growth and development, in line with China’s priorities and needs as they evolve. In 1994, Singapore and China established the Suzhou Industrial Park, just as China was embarking on attracting foreign investment and a new wave of industrialisation. In 2007, we jointly embarked on the Tianjin Eco-City to address China’s priorities in sustainable development. Last year, we launched the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity. 

The Chongqing Connectivity Initiative will enhance connectivity in finance, aviation, transport and logistics and ICT within Western China, and between China and the world. Importantly, it will serve as a demonstration project of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. Singapore also made an early commitment to be part of the AIIB, and is a founding member.    

Besides the Joint Steering Councils for each of the three G-to-G projects I have mentioned, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and I co-chair the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) formed in 2004. The JCBC reviews and charts our bilateral cooperation, looking to the future to address economic transformation challenges and create new cooperation opportunities. 

I also co-chair the Social Governance Forum with Politburo Member and Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission Meng Jianzhu, where we exchange perspectives and experiences on how to build a harmonious and peaceful multi-ethnic society, and manage the challenges from economic transformation and migration. The Social Governance Forum started in 2012, with the third meeting in the series held in Singapore in May this year. I also co-chair the Leadership Forum, with Politburo Member and Central Organisation Department Minister Zhao Leji, where we exchange views on how to build a responsive and responsible leadership to address emerging issues in a modern society. We will be meeting next year in Singapore, for the sixth in the series. 

These three fora cover critical areas where both China and Singapore face challenges that we must address in order to remain stable, harmonious and prosperous countries. 

Successive generations of leaders from both sides have laid the foundation for close collaboration across a wide range of sectors. We have also established Business Councils  with Guangdong, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Shandong, Sichuan, Tianjin and Zhejiang to facilitate trade, economic cooperation and investments. It is important for our younger generation to continue and deepen collaboration for mutual benefit.  

Singapore is well placed and stands ready to work with China to find meaningful ways to grow and deepen our relationship. We are the largest source country of China’s foreign investment since 2013. Geographically, we are at the centre of the Southeast Asia, at the strategic junction in the Asia-Pacific, between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean basins. Culturally and linguistically, we are attuned to the region and to working in a cross-cultural environment. 

Opportunities for New Partnerships 

How can Singapore and China work together? More Chinese companies are expanding their global footprint, in line with the “Belt and Road” initiative. Last year, China’s Overseas Direct Investment surpassed the Foreign Direct Investment into China for the first time.  Significantly, China’s non-financial Overseas Direct Investment into ASEAN economies has more than doubled from 2008, reaching US$ 7.8 billion in 2014.  

With increasing urbanisation and a growing middle class, we can expect many opportunities for companies in Southeast Asia and China. 
And I suggest three areas where we can cooperate for mutual benefit:

First, Chinese companies can access financial, legal and arbitration services in Singapore to expand to the region. Singapore’s financial links with China have deepened, particularly since the appointment of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China as the RMB clearing bank in Singapore in 2013. China and Singapore have also opened up cross-border RMB arrangements for Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing. These arrangements enable corporates in these three cities to borrow from Singapore-based financial institutions and to issue bonds in Singapore. Many Chinese companies, such as Lenovo and Minsheng Investment Corporation, have set up Singapore offices to tap on our banks and capital markets to finance regional expansion. 

As businesses expand across national borders, the ability to reliably, efficiently and fairly enforce commercial contracts and resolve contractual disagreements becomes even more important. Singapore’s trusted business environment has enabled the rapid development and growth of international commercial arbitration services to meet this need. In 2015, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) saw over 270 cases amounting to S$6.2 billion. Companies from 55 countries have used the SIAC. In fact, Indian and Chinese companies are the top two users of the commercial arbitration services here in Singapore. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre opened its Representative Office in the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone in January this year, and will work with mainland Chinese arbitration commissions to promote global best practices.  

Second, by tapping into the Digital Economy. China has shown how the digital economy enabled it to leapfrog a generation – in marketing, distribution, retail, credit and finance and the digital economy – overcoming infrastructural and institutional constraints. These business models and processes can also be adapted to other large, developing markets which face similar infrastructural and institutional constraints although in different forms, including those in Southeast Asia. For example, Alibaba and SingPost are working together on an end-to-end e-commerce logistics fulfilment system serving regional customers. 

Our business associations and chambers are also helping our companies to tap into the Chinese online market. For instance, the Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association launched the online Singapore Pavilion with Alibaba in April. This online retail store helps our small-and-medium enterprises to leverage the Singapore brand and reduce costs when accessing the Chinese market.    

Third, by working together in third markets. One example is the joint venture between China Machinery Engineering Corporation, a Chinese infrastructure SOE, and Singapore’s Ascendas Group. This win-win partnership enables Ascendas and CMEC to tap into each other’s networks and develop industrial and business parks in countries such as China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Singapore can also play a role to connect companies from different countries, and serve as a launch-pad into the region and beyond. Today, more than 7,500 Chinese companies are registered here in Singapore, and this is almost double from just five years ago. Interestingly, there are also more than 8,500 Indian companies registered in Singapore.   These Singapore-based companies form a vibrant community and can work together to tap on our comprehensive network of 20 implemented Free Trade Agreements with 31 trading partners  to venture abroad. So by working from Singapore, you can find partners who are like-minded, and make use of the infrastructure and free trade agreements to facilitate your expansion abroad.


China’s economic transformation will bring new challenges. There will be difficult trade-offs to be made. But China has an impressive record of successfully managing reform and restructuring the economy. There will be many opportunities created in new markets and new fields in our growing Asia-Pacific region. Companies from China can access financial, legal and arbitration services here in Singapore. They can also work with Singapore companies to tap the new growth opportunities in the Digital Economy, and seek new partners in the vibrant community of companies from many countries based in Singapore to enter third countries. 

By working together, we can catalyse the growth of our whole region for many more years to come, bringing benefits for China, Southeast Asia and a better life for all our people. I wish everyone a fruitful and rewarding time at this year’s FutureChina Global Forum.  Thank you.