Amidst rising protectionism and anti-globalism, a booming digital economy and changing geopolitical landscape, the world is entering a time of “Never Normal”, a reality where change is constantly triggered by ‘seismic shocks’ like the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many of the uncertainties may be here to stay, the necessity for collaboration remains an eternal theme. In such a context, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business partnered with Business China, a top Singapore-based think tank, as a Knowledge Partner to its most distinguished annual flagship event, the FutureChina Global Forum 2021, that was held on July 12 in Singapore and virtually, convening more than 60 senior government officials, business leaders, academics and opinion leaders to share their perspectives and experiences on how to forge ahead with a win-win collaboration among China, Singapore, ASEAN countries and beyond.
This year, high-ranking government officials from Singapore, China and ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand, endorsed the Forum. 3 Singaporean ministers (including Mr. Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Mr. Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s Minister of Education, and Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health of Singapore), 5 Chinese provincial and city governors (of Chongqing, Tianjin, Guangdong, Suzhou and Jiangsu) as well as 4 trade-related ministers from ASEAN countries joined the discussion, affirming the achievements of ASEAN-China collaborations over the past three decades and envisioning a new era of partnership in the “never-normal.”
CKGSB Founding Dean and Professor of China Business and Globalization Dr. Xiang Bing spoke on the Opening Plenary Session together with other prominent leaders like Mr. Heng Swee Keat (Deputy Prime Minister), Ms. Helen Wong (Group CEO of OCBC Bank), Mr. Vice Chairman and President of Bank of China and Mr. KK Chua (Vice Chairman of Mary Kay).
Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Heng Swee Keat kicked off the forum by reviewing the successful ASEAN-China collaboration over the past 30 years and shared an optimistic outlook to the future where the global economy will be reshaped by digitalization. “Government-to-government projects such as the Smart City Initiative (SCI) are a pathfinder that expands and deepens linkages between Singapore and China (Shenzhen) through digital collaborations to build healthy business ecosystems for both countries. To further promote the ASEAN-China dialogue relations, we must cope with the structural challenges that are reshaping the global economy, seek new sources of growth and form new collaborations.”
Responding to the Deputy Prime Minister’s sharing on the importance of collaborations, CKGSB Founding Dean and Professor of China Business and Globalization, Dr. Xiang Bing, noted that now in the era of disruptions there is a need for a new enlightenment and business civilization, in which China will play a catalyst role. “Based on my research on the global economy and my first-hand interactions with our alumni from CKGSB, who comprise of 16,000 executives running one-fifth of China’s most valuable brands,” Dr. Xiang said, “China’s economic miracle lies in its ability to create economic disruption, which is embodied in the fact that it has been constantly generating new impactful brands, reshuffling individual wealth, and fostering high-tech oriented unicorn companies. I believe that the Chinese experience in generating economic disruptions is globally relevant.”
CKGSB Associate Dean and Professor of Accounting and Finance, Dr. Liu Jing, commented on ties between ASEAN and China from the perspective of digital banking and financial connectivity. “There are actually many internet giants other than Alibaba and Tencent who have the potential to provide digital banking services. However, Alibaba and Tencent have crucial advantages over them, as they not only have easy access to customers and are trusted by customers–attributes that most internet companies enjoy—more importantly, they have their own digital payment services that allow them to move money,” said Prof. Liu Jing when sharing his analysis on the development of digital banks in China. He also pointed out that “the biggest hurdle facing Chinese digital banks when they enter into overseas markets is cultural barriers. However, Chinese companies will most likely to succeed in countries and regions that are receptive to Chinese technology.”
The Forum also featured CKGSB alumni comprised of business leaders from some of the most influential Chinese companies. Mr. Wang Guangyu (Founder and Chairman of China Soft Capital), Ms. Wang Yan (Vice President and Managing Director for International Business at Shandong Weiqiao Pioneering Group), and Mr. Liang Xinjun (Founder and Former CEO of Fosun Group) shed light on topics around the event theme “Elevating ASEAN-China Economic Collaboration in the ‘Never-Normal’” based on their first-hand experiences and understanding of the trends in cross-border activities in their own industries.
Mr. Wang Guangyu, CKGSB alumnus and Founder and Chairman of China Soft Capital, commented on financial technology. “As someone who is involved in Fintech investment, I see Fintech as an emerging industry in China, where many changes and adjustments may still take place. Customers’ demand for Fintech has been growing ever more rapidly, especially in e-commerce and cross-border transactions. We can anticipate that the next phase of China’s Fintech development is going to be international.”
Ms. Wang Yan, CKGSB alumna and Vice President and Managing Director for International Business at Shandong Weiqiao Pioneering Group—which is one of the largest textile companies in China—shared the efforts her company has made in transforming this traditionally energy-intensive industry into a greener business. “In Shandong Weiqiao, we combine our low carbon strategies with digitalization. We have invested RMB 821 million (USD 127 million) on an integrated smart green project that helped us realize smart control, smart manufacturing and smart monitoring. We also work with a German metal recycling company to reuse and recycle aluminum waste,” said Ms. Wang Yan. As her company continues its commitment in digitalization and green transformation, Ms. Wang saw great potential in collaborating with Singaporean companies that have advantages over talent pools, computer science, and AI resources.
This year, FutureChina Global Forum is organized by Business China in a hybrid format with 1600+ online participants joined from 26 countries and 140+ on-site attendees in Singapore, quickly adjusting to the difficulties brought by the pandemic. “We’re living in a world of growing uncertainty with changes occurring ever more swiftly. We cannot predict the future, but we can and must seek to create a better future,” said Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Heng Swee Keat in his opening remarks. CKGSB, as its Knowledge Partner, shares a similar vision. As Founding Dean Dr. Xiang Bing expressed in his speech, together with Business China, CKGSB looks forward to contributing to the “reconfiguration of the global trading system that would be beneficial for humanity.”