SINGAPORE — For China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to be a win-win for all 65 countries involved, cross-cultural communication and healthy partnerships with Chinese companies are vital, speakers told the FutureChina Global Forum yesterday.
The two-day forum organised by Business China brought together over 60 experts on China and 500 corporate leaders and academics. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean delivered the opening speech, emphasising that collaboration and connectivity were key to developing greater mutual understanding of the possibilities and potential of the Belt and Road project.
“In the course of our own development, Singapore and China have accumulated useful expertise and experience which could be relevant for countries along the Belt and Road,” noted DPM Teo, who is also co-chairman of the Singapore-China Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation.
In his welcome address, chairman of Business China, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, said: “We will continue to strengthen the Singapore-China savvy network to boost people-to-people interconnectivity ... The gradual growth of this network will become a regional connector that plugs Singapore to the regional market network.”
Ms Ren Dongyan, general manager of China Construction Bank Singapore, pointed out that the Chinese corporate culture has evolved. While companies like Alibaba have a strong global presence, many small local companies face challenges in venturing overseas, she said.
Partnerships with third parties can help realise the full potential of the Belt and Road Initiative to uplift economies and people across the region, said participants.
While cultural differences can be a stumbling block, “sharing experiences” can help overcome some of the problems, noted Mr Pisit Serewiwattana, president of Export-Import Bank of Thailand.
“There are different regulations and cultures (which are) difficult to connect. China itself cannot do it alone … they need cooperation with partners,” he said.
Mr Setyono Djuandi Darmono, president commissioner of PT Jababeka TBK, Indonesia, said that working with other regional partners like Singapore have helped bridge the cultural gap. “Singapore knows Indonesia well and is in a better position to partner for projects in Indonesia,” he said.
Mutual trust and co-ownership are fundamental to the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, noted Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman Teo Siong Seng.
“It is not about economic powerhouses supporting smaller companies, but about long-term trade between countries. There is a need to foster the sense of ownership more, invest together and build together.”
Highlighting the complexities of choosing the right partner, Surbana Jurong’s CEO (International) Teo Eng Cheong said: “Select a few good (Chinese) partners, work with them to develop mutual trust and the winning formula, then go for more projects together.”
During the forum, Business China signed Memoranda of Understanding with a total of 10 local and Chinese organisations. Rumi Hardasmalani