Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Chinese becoming targets of terror, crime

China is always astounding, and all one has to do is take a look at the numbers involved. Read the quote below.

Quotable Quotes – “The annual number of overseas visits by Chinese reached more than 45 million in 2008. Between 1949 and 1979 was only 280,000…

Chinese becoming targets of terror, crime

China Daily/Asia News Network
Source – AsiaOne 30 September 2009

Chinese citizens have become targets of foreign criminals and terrorists as the country’s profile on the world stage has been increasing, said vice foreign minister Song Tao.

“We are facing a more and more complicated overseas security situation,” he was quoted as saying by People’s Daily Tuesday.

“Deteriorating regional conflicts and turbulence in some countries have directly affected the safety of our citizens and companies abroad.”

As many countries are suffering from the global financial crisis, Chinese people and Chinese companies are also experiencing a hard time, he added.

“In many non-traditional security accidents, such as terrorist activities, kidnapping and pirate attacks, Chinese citizens are now not only innocent victims but direct targets. “More and more crimes and accidents are causing casualties and property losses for overseas Chinese.”

Last year, more than 3,400 Chinese tourists were trapped in Thailand due to domestic turbulence in November and Chinese cargo vessels were attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The Chinese government rented 12 passenger flights to rescue the trapped citizens in Thailand and sent a convoy of warships to Somalia.

The two actions are widely seen as the best examples of China strengthening overseas protection in recent years.

But Chinese citizens are still not the main target of the terrorist attacks in the world, Li Wei, director of the center for counter-terrorism studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told China Daily Tuesday.

“Inadequate preparations for the complicated overseas security situation is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of accidents,” he said.

“Chinese visitors should know the sources of danger and find proper solutions before leaving.”

The annual number of overseas visits by Chinese reached more than 45 million in 2008. Between 1949 and 1979 was only 280,000, the vice minister said.

To protect the safety and rights of Chinese citizens and organizations abroad, the Foreign Ministry set up a consular protection department in 2006.

In recent years, the ministry has handled more than 30,000 consular protection cases a year.

But the lack of local knowledge and customs and inadequate security measures also cause losses and taints the image of Chinese people, he said.

In order to equip Chinese citizens with more legal knowledge of foreign cultures, 1 million copies of overseas safety and etiquette guidebooks have been issued at all entrance and exit ports and overseas embassies.

Free materials can be downloaded from the ministry’s website.

China Daily/Asia News Network

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Filed under: AsiaOne, Politics, Strategy

S’pore population to hit 5 million soon

5 million honestly seems too much. The new forecasted solid state population for Singapore is now targeted at 8.5 million. Now that may not sound like a lot of people, but when we look at population density, it’s rather insane. Singapore now has a density of close to 6,814 people per square kilometre. That’s 6,814 people standing on an area the size of a football field. How insane is that. This statistic places Singapore as third, after Macau and Monaco, as the world’s most densely populated nation.

With 8.5 million, I shudder to think how much more crowded it will be on our humbly sized island all of 700 square km (and that’s after years of reclaiming land adding close to / more than 100 square km of space to our spot in the Malay Peninsula.

Now the big question for me is – can I find out how many of these new migrants are mainland Chinese? The quest begins.

Quotable Quotes – “The growth has been fuelled mainly by the increase in immigrants, as the number of babies delivered by Singapore residents rose only marginally.”

S’pore population to hit 5 million soon
By Lee Hui Chieh
Source – AsiaOne 29 September 2009

SINGAPORE’S population hit almost 4.99 million in June this year, up 3.1 per cent from last year.

The growth has been fuelled mainly by the increase in immigrants, as the number of babies delivered by Singapore residents rose only marginally.

The figures released yesterday by the Department of Statistics show that the number of citizens grew from 3.16 million last year to 3.2 million this year, while that of permanent residents inched up from 0.48 million last year to 0.53 million this year.

The number of non-residents rose by 4.8 per cent to reach 1.25 million this year – a lower rise from the over-10 per cent rate in the last two years.

Just slightly more babies were born last year than in the previous year: 39,826, up 0.9 per cent. However, the total fertility rate dropped from 1.29 to 1.28 last year.

Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist from the National University of Singapore, said that it is positive that Singapore has been able to sustain population growth, despite the recession and competition from other developed countries.

Like Singapore, they seek immigrants to make up for falling fertility rates.

Prof Straughan, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament, said: “It shows that Singapore is a draw for migrants, that there are still jobs and quality of life here.”

Administrative planner Yvonne Tay, 35, became a citizen in April this year, 16 years after coming here from Perak, as she wanted her children “to enjoy better education opportunities and subsidies as a citizen”.

She said: “We’re used to the lifestyle here, it’s safe and peaceful. Half of my family is also here, and my sister’s family also took up citizenship three years ago.”

Filed under: AsiaOne, Singapore

60th Anniversary: China goes Hollywood

Quotable Quotes – “While revolutionary leader Mao Zedong is the star of the film – and of most of the other TV shows and stage productions – the theme of ‘Jianguo Daye”, as China battles current day economic crisis and social unrest, is national unity.

China goes Hollywood
China’s 60th anniversary
AFP
Source – The Straits Times 28 September 2009

BEIJING – CHINA is going Hollywood for the communist state’s 60th birthday. Dozens of films, TV mini-series and shows are hitting screen and stage, with a sweeping all-star epic taking the country by storm.

‘Jianguo Daye’ (The Founding of a Republic) is hard to miss. The film, which cost 30 million yuan (S$6.23 million) to make, is on a record 1,700 screens nationwide and Tinseltown-style ads are everywhere.
More than 170 of China’s most beloved actors and directors – Zhang Ziyi, Chen Kaige, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, to name a few – lent their skills to the project, which was the brainchild of the king of Chinese cinema, Han Sanping.

While revolutionary leader Mao Zedong is the star of the film – and of most of the other TV shows and stage productions – the theme of ‘Jianguo Daye”, as China battles current day economic crisis and social unrest, is national unity.

The two-hour blockbuster tells the story of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – a coalition of ‘democratic’ parties, artists, scientists and intellectuals who voted to create the People’s Republic.

Mr Han – the boss of China Film, the country’s biggest movie producer and distributor – says he has created a new style of propaganda film, in which Mao and Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek are more realistic, human characters.

In one scene, we see Mao, the ‘Great Helmsman’ himself, completely drunk after a major battlefield victory.

While the film may draw older moviegoers wanting to relive the events of 1949, the stars have been recruited to lure younger viewers like 21-year-old student Fu Qiang, who raved about the film after a recent screening in Beijing.

‘Every person in China should see this film,’ he said.

‘The most important thing is not the star power, really – even if that helps bring in the money. This film will boost a feeling of patriotism in China. Plus, it’s a great way to celebrate National Day.’ Wang Yu, a retiree in her 60s, said the film was ‘truly authentic’.

‘It shows how the revolution in China came to pass – it started out weak and gained strength – and explains the time when the Communist Party rallied the people to liberate the country,’ she said. — AFP

ANOTHER PIECE OF PROPAGANDA
Controversial artist Ai Weiwei, whose work is often censured by the communist government, sees the film differently – as yet another piece of blatant propaganda by a regime that has hardly changed in six decades.

He suggested the stars – who were not paid for their work – had been pressured or felt obliged to take part, as otherwise ‘they knew they would miss out on future opportunities’.

‘The director (Han) is a very powerful man in the film industry. This nation has become more and more like a crime family – the Mafiosi control everything and so they can either make you or break you,’ he told AFP in an interview.

No matter what the politics behind getting the film made, it is sure to be a massive hit.

Luisa Prudentino, an expert on Chinese cinema, says the ‘Jianguo Daye’ formula will be the model for future propaganda films.

‘This allows the authorities to counter Hollywood’s growing influence here by making blockbuster films that make money while also getting their message across to the masses in a more glamorous way,’ she said.

The other major production on offer is ‘Road to Revival”, a two-and-a-half-hour Broadway-style musical that takes the audience on a journey from the Opium Wars to the present day, glorifying the re-emergence of China as a world power.

State television’s main channel has also ‘gone red’ with ‘Jiefang’ (Liberation), a 50-part mini-series that tells the story of Mao’s victory over the Nationalists, complete with bloody battle scenes. — AFP

Filed under: 60th Anniversary, Media, Politics

Confucius’ 2m descendants?

Confucious has been the butt of many a joke despite its revered status as a mainstay of Chinese thought. Some examples – we’ll hear some say…Confucius says…

“Man who walk through airport door sideways is going to Bangkok.” or “Man who drop watch in toilet, bound to have shitty time.”

Good humour I’m sure. It’s not so much of a joke when you consider this ancient Chinese great’s lineage now counts more than two million descendants. That’s a mighty long line of people. And this, occurring over about 2500 years.

Quotable Quotes – “ABOUT two million people are now recognised as descendants of Confucius, more than tripling the size of the celebrated Chinese philosopher’s family tree…”

Confucius’ 2m descendants?
AFP
Source – Straits Times 25 September 2009

BEIJING – ABOUT two million people are now recognised as descendants of Confucius, more than tripling the size of the celebrated Chinese philosopher’s family tree, state media reported on Friday.

The new list, which includes ethnic minorities, women and overseas relatives for the first time, was unveiled on Thursday in the thinker’s hometown Qufu to coincide with the 2,560th anniversary of his birth, the Global Times said.

The family tree – believed to be the biggest in the world – was last updated in 1937, and had only 560,000 members, according to the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, the report said.

‘It is not only important for academic research, but also valuable in helping Confucius descendants around the world discover their ancestors and strengthen family bonds,’ said Kong Deyong, a 77th generation descendant of the philosopher who is known as Kong Fuzi in China.

Mr Kong, who heads the International Confucius Association, said he was glad that gender, religion and nationality were no longer factors in determining which descendants were counted.

‘Even if many descendants are no longer Han or without Chinese nationality, we should count them in because we are one big family,’ the Global Times quoted him as saying.

Kong Dejun, a teacher at Cambridge University, said her inclusion in the family tree – which has 43,000 pages and is bound in 80 books – was the ‘most exciting moment’ of her life.

‘In terms of genes, Confucius’ blood is flowing in our body,’ Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.

Extensive research was carried out in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and across Southeast Asia to find the descendants, Kong Deyong told the paper.

Previous reports said each person had paid a five-yuan (S$1.03) fee to register for inclusion in the family tree.

The ancient teachings of Confucius (551-479 BC), centring on peace and social harmony, have enjoyed a renaissance here in recent years, after being suppressed in Maoist China. — AFP

Filed under: Confucius, Culture, Straits Times

60th Anniversary: China at age 60: from pariah to world power

SO. the PRC is turning 60 in modern terms. In reality, I reckon it celebrates 5000 years of continuous civilization.

Quotable Quote – “The so-called ‘workshop of the world’ is a global leader in research and development – China, Japan and the United States accounted for nearly 60 percent of all patent requests filed in 2007.”

China at age 60: from pariah to world power

By Joelle Garrus | Reuters
Source – AsiaOne 24 September 2009

BEIJING, CHINA – Sixty years ago, as Mao Zedong declared the founding of a new communist nation, China was backward and isolated.

Today, it is a world power with sweeping influence – it is financing America’s debt, snapping up access to natural resources in Africa and Latin America, and making its voice heard on major diplomatic issues.

his remarkable transformation – to be celebrated on October 1, communist China’s 60th birthday – occurred thanks to a radical change in tactics at the midway point in the PRC’s history, after three turbulent decades of Maoism.

‘A big part of the first 30-year period can be regarded as lost decades for China,’ explained Ren Xianfang, an analyst at IHS Global Insight in Beijing.

But then as the rest of the world was in ‘great transition’, moving towards market-based economies and privatisation, Beijing embraced a ‘policy shift to economic and political pragmatism’, Ren said – and everything changed.

A country that was once seen as a pariah, stuck between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and which barely gained United Nations membership in 1971, slowly emerged from its isolation.

In 1978, Beijing agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Washington. Then, under paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, it launched a programme of economic reforms that opened up the country to foreign investment.

Francoise Lemoine, a China expert at the Research Centre for International Economics (CEPII) in Paris, says the country’s authorities quickly understood how to reap the benefits of the new world order.

‘China is opening up at a time when other countries are ready to move their intensive manual labour activities offshore,’ the French economist told AFP.

‘China knows how to take advantage of this new globalisation, of the worldwide movement of capital and goods, and is claiming its rightful place in this new global division of labour.’

When Mao and his communists took power in October 1949, China was emerging from the ravages of civil war with the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan, and Japanese occupation.

The country’s gross domestic product had sunk to levels not seen since 1890 – its 500 million people were largely poor, illiterate and working the land to survive.

Lemoine said the first 30 years in the history of communist China – typified by the devastating fallout of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution – were nevertheless not a total waste.

The country made ‘progress in terms of hygiene, health and education – most young people now have access to a basic education,’ she said.

Today, China is the world’s third-largest economy, the biggest exporter on the planet and has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, at a whopping 2.13 trillion dollars, 800 billion of which is held in US Treasury bonds.

Beijing is one of five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, participates in key international negotiations on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, and hosts the six-party talks on North Korea’s atomic drive.

The country is seen as key to resolving the deadly conflict in the western Darfur region of Sudan, where China has major oil interests, and its stance on climate change is considered an essential piece of the global warming puzzle.

Its military is catching up with the West in leaps and bounds, and China is only one of three countries, along with the United States and the former Soviet Union, to have ever put a man in space.

The so-called ‘workshop of the world’ is a global leader in research and development – China, Japan and the United States accounted for nearly 60 percent of all patent requests filed in 2007.

It is the world’s most populous nation, at 1.3 billion people, but barely eight percent remain illiterate. While the rich-poor divide is still of great concern, far fewer people are considered destitute.

Some experts say China has, 60 years on, finally acquired power and influence commensurate with its size, but others caution that it has not yet achieved ‘superpower’ status, in part due to the Communists’ iron grip.

‘The country is just an emerging power that is still facing lots of uncertainties in its ascent,’ Ren noted.

‘One major obstacle… is that China has yet to be accepted by the world as a leadership charting world values and ideology, which will require drastic political reforms in the country – and that is unlikely to come to pass soon.’

Hu Xingdou, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, agreed, saying such reforms were needed to eliminate any fears about a ‘China threat’.

‘The doubts about China will only fade with the development of a democratic, constitutional political system, and once it adopts the values of mainstream civilisation,’ Hu said.

Filed under: 60th Anniversary, Politics, Straits Times

Foreigners seek jobs in China amid crisis

So it seems from this report that China has now becoming the new land of opportunity. Well, not quite, with only 217,000 foreigners holding work permits, it is not that significant a number relative to China’s workforce size. I do believe this number will grow pretty quickly though, just as any trend that develops in China, the potential for pretty substantial exponential growth is there.

But what’s really pertinent about this report is the fact that these foreign work seekers are going to be competing with millions of well-qualified Chinese jobseekers willing to work for just a few hundred US dollars a month. Not much, but a stepping stone into a potentially huge market. So, those who venture there I would reckon, would possess considerable foresight.

Quotable Quote – “China’s job market has been propped up by Beijing’s 4 trillion yuan (S$828 billion) stimulus, which helped to boost growth to 7.9 per cent from a year earlier in the quarter ended June 30, and from 6.1 per cent the previous quarter.”

Foreigners seek jobs in China amid crisis
Robust growth creates ‘land of opportunity’ for millions of job seekers
Associated Press
Source – Straits Times 20 September 2009

A growing number of young foreigners are going to China to look for work in its unfamiliar but less bleak economy, driven by the worst job markets in decades in the United States, Europe and some Asian countries.

Many do basic work such as teaching English, a service in demand from Chinese businessmen and students. A growing number, however, are arriving with skills and experience in computers, finance and other fields.

‘China is really the land of opportunity now compared to their home countries,’ said Mr Chris Watkins, manager for China and Hong Kong of MRI China Group, a headhunting firm. ‘This includes college graduates as well as maybe more established businessmen, entrepreneurs and executives from companies around the world.’

He said the number of resumes his company receives from abroad has tripled over the past 18 months.

China’s job market has been propped up by Beijing’s 4 trillion yuan (S$828 billion) stimulus, which helped to boost growth to 7.9 per cent from a year earlier in the quarter ended June 30, and from 6.1 per cent the previous quarter.

The government says millions of jobs will be created this year, though as many as 12 million job seekers will still be unable to find work.

Mr Andrew Carr, a 23-year-old Cornell University graduate, saw China as a safer alternative after offers of Wall Street jobs to classmates were withdrawn because of the economic turmoil.

Passing up opportunities at home, he started work last month at bangyibang.

com, a classified listings website in the southern city of Shenzhen.

‘I noticed the turn the US economy was taking and decided it would be best to go directly to China,’ said Mr Carr, who studied Mandarin for eight years.

China can be more accessible to job-hunters than economies where getting work permits is harder, such as Russia and some European Union countries.

Employers need government permission to hire foreigners, but the authorities promise an answer within 15 working days, compared with a wait of months or longer that may be required in some other countries.

An employer has to explain why it needs to hire a foreigner instead of a Chinese, but the government says it gives special consideration to people with technical or management skills.

Some 217,000 foreigners held work permits at the end of last year, up from 210,000 a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Thousands more use temporary business visas and go abroad regularly to renew them.

Job hunters from other Asian countries are also looking to China.

Mr An Kwang Jin, a 30-year-old South Korean photographer, has been working as a freelancer for a year in the eastern city of Qingdao. He said China offers more opportunities, as South Korea is struggling with a sluggish economy.

Still, foreigners will face more competition from a rising number of educated, English-speaking young Chinese, some of whom are returning from the West with work experience, said Mr Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.

‘You have a lot of Chinese from top universities who are making US$500 to US$600 a month,’ Mr Rein said. ‘Making a case that you are much better than they are is very hard.’

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed under: Culture, Economics, Straits Times

Hans Rosling on the Rise of China

Swedish statistics master talks about the numbers of China in a short six minuter.

Filed under: Video

Ancient Chinese Wisdom

This comes from Zhuge Liang, one of the most important and renown strategists of Chinese history.

“夫君子之行:静以修身,俭以养德;非淡泊无以明志,非宁静无以致远。” – 诸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. Seeking fame and wealth will not lead to noble ideal. Only by seeking serenity will one reach far. – Zhuge Liang

Source – China History Forum

Filed under: Culture, Strategy

Beijing cancels final rehearsal for Oct 1 National Day Parade

Beijing cancels final rehearsal
Reuters
Source – Straits Times 19 September 2009

BEIJING – BEIJING has cancelled a final rehearsal for a massive National Day parade after disruptions caused by preparations this week in the Chinese capital shut roads and large parts of the subway system.

The official Xinhua news agency said the final rehearsal for the Oct 1 parade had been set for next Saturday.

Downtown Beijing ground to a halt on Friday afternoon to make way for tanks, missile carriers, soldiers, floats and dancers getting ready for the celebrations to mark 60 years of Communist rule.

Office workers in buildings lining Changan Avenue, the main thoroughfare for the parade, cleared out early to avoid being stuck by a transport clampdown and armed paramilitary police swarmed street corners to keep onlookers at bay.

The event, which ended in the early hours of Saturday, would be the last before Oct 1, Xinhua said.

‘A planned rehearsal on Sept 26 has been called off to avoid further affecting the public,’ it cited an unnamed spokesman for the organisers as saying.

‘The four rounds of rehearsals had helped the organisers to spot and solve problems in preparation of the gala event,’ the spokesman added. ‘We are again deeply thankful for people’s understanding and support.’ The run up to Oct 1 has been accompanied by heightened security in Beijing, with the stability obsessed government taking no chances, especially after recent unrest in the far western region of Xinjiang.

As well as military personnel and equipment, the rehearsals featured 100,000 ordinary people, 60 floats celebrating everything from last year’s Beijing Olympics to renewable energy projects, and 80,000 school children, Xinhua said.

State television showed images of the area around Tiananmen Square turned into a riot of colour and lights, thronging with performers in sparkling costumes. — REUTERS

Filed under: Straits Times, Strategy

Eyeing China, Singapore sees Mandarin as its future

What has always been apparent is now getting very obvious. Chinese-majority Singapore is located in a part of the world where they are quite isolated from natural allies such as their own ethnicity, and alignment with China was always going to be important.

Quotable Quotes – “English has long united the ethnically diverse island-state but Singapore’s leaders now foresee a time when Mandarin will be the country’s dominant language and they are aggressively encouraging their people to become fluent in Chinese.

Also – “In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue.” Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kwan Yew.

Eyeing China, Singapore sees Mandarin as its future
Wed, Sep 16, 2009
Reuters
Source – AsiaOne, 16 September 2009

SINGAPORE – A cacophony of Mandarin and English echo through the streets of Singapore’s Chinatown as crowds of shoppers buy joss sticks and fruit as offerings to the spirits during the Seventh Month Ghost Festival.

English has long united the ethnically diverse island-state but Singapore’s leaders now foresee a time when Mandarin will be the country’s dominant language and they are aggressively encouraging their people to become fluent in Chinese.

‘Both English and Mandarin are important because in different situations you use either language. But Mandarin has become more important,’ said Chinatown shopkeeper Eng Yee Lay.

Hit hard by the global slowdown, strengthening ties with China has taken on a strategic imperative in Singapore which seeks to leverage the bilingual skills of its ethnic Chinese majority to get a larger slice of China’s fast expanding economic pie.

‘With the growing importance of China on the world stage, Chinese Singaporeans who are competent in the language and familiar with the culture would have a distinct advantage when working and interacting with Chinese nationals,’ Lim Sau Hoong, chairwoman of the Promote Mandarin Council, told Reuters.

The government-sponsored campaign to promote Mandarin began in 1979 to unite under one language Singapore’s disparate Chinese communities that spoke a multitude of dialects passed on by their ancestors who came from China in the 19th and early 20th century.

Unifying the Chinese majority in a country with sizeable Malay and Indian minorities was a priority and in the early days the Speak Mandarin Campaign discouraged ethnic Chinese from speaking the dialects that prevailed such as Hokkien.

Now, with a majority of Singaporeans speaking Mandarin in their homes, according to government figures, the focus is on improving fluency in spoken and written Mandarin.

‘In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue,’ said Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the launch of the 2009 Speak Mandarin Campaign earlier this year.

His vision is for Singapore to become China’s Southeast Asia hub as it expands its commercial interests in the region, while Singapore firms would entrench their positions in China, giving them a first-mover advantage over foreign firms.

Already, despite its small demographic size, Singapore was China’s third largest foreign investor with total foreign direct investment of S$6.5 billion in 2008, a 40 per cent rise from 2007, according to the Chinese government.

Trade between the countries has risen 17-fold since 1991 to S$91.4 billion ($63.34 billion) in 2008.

TRADE AND CULTURAL TIES

Singapore has come a long way since the 1970s when its Campidge-educated Lee was suspicious of Maoist China’s designs on the region and focused on keeping the country predominantly English speaking and aligned with anti-Communist powers, the United States and UK.

As Singapore prepares to mark two decades of ties with China next year, 20,000 Singaporeans are working in China and scores of joint ventures are underway.

Among them is the construction of an ‘eco-city’ in Tianjin, near Beijing, which is being designed to use renewable energy, recycled water and has an extensive public transport system.

Singapore’s senior cabinet minister and head of its Monetary Authority, Goh Chok Tong, discussed the project with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a visit to China last week.

Among Singapore investors in China are offshore oil rig builder Keppel Corp, bank DBS, water treatment firm Hyflux, energy services provider Rotary Engineering and Raffles Education.

Singapore developer CapitaLand, which aims to build 58 malls across 40 Chinese cities, said this month it planned to nearly double the value of its assets in China to $8 billion, or 45 per cent of its overall assets.

Singapore is proving to be a fertile recruiting ground for Mandarin-speaking middle and senior managers to run multinationals’ operations in China where a lack of qualified managers has held back expansion plans by many foreign firms.

MITIGATING RISK

The financial crisis took a toll on Singapore’s export dependent economy, reducing annual economic growth to just 1.1 per cent in 2008, compared to around 8.2 per cent between 2004-2007, and creating the highest unemployment rate in five years. Strengthening ties with China is seen as mitigating Singapore’s risk.

China is expected to become Singapore’s largest single market for non-oil exports this year, overtaking the United States, says economist Irvin Seah at Singapore’s top bank DBS Group.

‘We use the term ‘China-ready,’ meaning we will just have to grow with them,’ IE Singapore CEO Chong Lit Cheong, whose state agency promotes Singapore firms’ investment apoad, told Reuters.

‘As far as China grows 7 to 8 per cent a year in a foreseeable future, we will continue to have a bigger presence there.’

Singaporeans were among the first foreign investors in China after Deng Xiaoping adopted a market economy in 1978. Singapore’s then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, still in the cabinet, has visited China almost every year.

After Deng’s 1992 remarks to officials to ‘learn from the world and, especially Singapore, and do better than Singapore”, thousands of Chinese officials started flooding the city-state for trips and university degree programmes in administration.

Around three-quarters of Singapore’s population are ethnic Chinese, giving many of its businessmen a cultural advantage versus the West, but the government is also trying to strengthen understanding of the Chinese culture and mindset.

‘Although we speak the same language, when we look at issues we are different,’ said IE Singapore’s Chong. ‘The next step is how we see China in a Chinese perspective.’

Business China, an agency under Lee’s patronage, is tasked to ‘groom 20,000 to 30,000 bilingual and bi-cultural Singaporeans with the ability to communicate effectively in the China market’.

Eugene Aw, a 22-year-old Singaporean, sees his professional future in China after studying for his degree in the UK and turning down a job with an American multinational firm.

‘I realised that Asia wouldn’t wait for me. For now I intend to stay local (in Singapore) to gain exposure, contacts, and especially capital. And then if I can, I will spring into China.’

Filed under: AsiaOne, Culture, International Relations, Singapore

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