Partnership in the Region and Beyond
By Yap Pheng Hui
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a symbol of China’s ascent in the 21st century, is also at the forefront of growing cooperation between Singapore and China. China’s investment in the countries along the Belt and Road has not only provided tremendous business opportunities for both countries, it has also brought out the complementary and synergistic effects produced by the two countries working together in a third market.
Projects and ventures of Chinese enterprises in the countries along the Belt and Road require support and follow up, especially in financial and legal matters. In some large-scale ventures, Chinese investors may also have to partner local companies or other international corporations, all of which involve navigating complex international finance and legal requirements. Singapore, as a key international financial centre and a leading global dispute resolution hub, is well positioned to provide the necessary assistance.
According to the ranking of the world’s most competitive financial hubs released by the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) on 26 March 2020, Singapore placed fifth, behind New York, London, Tokyo and Shanghai. The index takes into account business environment, financial sector development, infrastructure factors, human capital, reputation, and general factors.
Singapore also plays an important role as a regional legal hub. The International Arbitration Survey conducted by the School of International Arbitration at Queen Mary University of London, released on 9 May 2018 shows that the Singapore International Arbitration Centre has emerged as the most preferred arbitral institution in Asia, and is ranked third of the top five arbitral institutions in the world – with London and Paris ranked first and second respectively.
These internationally renowned resources are accessible to any Chinese investors or their joint venture partners in the countries along the Belt and Road. The new partnership also reflects a trend in the partnership between Singapore and China over the course of the three decades since Diplomatic Relations were officially established. As the countries work more closely together, the areas of cooperation have gradually shifted from the early days when Singapore provided capital and management know-how to China, to the establishment of government-to-government ventures and the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, and eventually to the current partnerships in third-party markets. The relative advantage that Singapore has in the international financial and legal sectors seamlessly meets the demand from Chinese enterprises going global.
Conscious of the general trend of the bilateral relationship between Singapore and China, Business China, as a non-governmental organisation for facilitating and advancing links between the two countries, has kept abreast of new developments and is doing its part by organising a broad range of events and programmes to enhance BRI-related knowledge among its members.
Business China first began exploring the development of the BRI at the FutureChina Global Forum in 2013, and organised dedicated seminars and business matchmaking sessions as part of the event in 2017 and 2018. Also of note was a half-day seminar focusing on the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road jointly hosted by Business China and the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry in 2018. The half-day seminar played a part in boosting the flow of people, capital, and information, and establishing an international logistics chain inland, giving full play to the spirit of the BRI. At this year’s forum, the focus was on the development of financing for infrastructure and “new infrastructure”, and opportunities for enterprises. Against the backdrop of the BRI, FutureChina Global Forum looks set to become an important international think tank. Such events and programmes will also continue to be a key part of Business China’s future activities.