Tuesday 16 September 2014

Exciting options for Singapore businesses in Guangxi: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in visit to the People's Republic of China, 11-18 September 2014

By Rachel Chang In Nanning (Guangxi), The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2014

THERE are new and exciting opportunities for Singaporean businessmen in China's relatively unexplored areas such as south- western Guangxi, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking on his visit to Guilin, known for its stunning natural beauty, he told the city's party secretary Zhao Leqin that he looked forward to telling Singaporeans, based on his personal experience, that they should come and explore it.

Singaporean businessmen in China, such as Mr Justin Low of Golden Verde Investment, had told the Prime Minister that regions like Guangxi "are not so well developed yet and so there are things that you can do, and (you can) open up new areas where other people have not yet been", Mr Lee said.

Mr Zhao urged PM Lee to expand Singaporean investment in Guilin, currently at about US$110 million (S$140 million), and suggested a joint project in Yangshuo county, a popular tourist spot.

Yesterday, Mr Lee took a cruise along the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo, and caught a performance of the Impressions Of Liu Sanjie, the Zhang Yimou-directed extravaganza set against the winding waterway and Karst mountains.

Now at the mid-point of his week-long trip to southern China, Mr Lee leaves Guilin this morning for Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi, to grace the 11th China-ASEAN Expo.

Singapore is this year's country of honour at the annual international trade fair. Mr Lee is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the official opening ceremony tomorrow.

PM Lee shares views on 3rd govt-to-govt project with China
He discusses areas of collaboration with senior Chinese leaders
By Rachel Chang In Nanning (Guangxi), The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2014

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday met senior Chinese leaders in Nanning to discuss areas of Sino-Singapore collaboration ahead of the 11th annual China-ASEAN Expo.

Singapore is the country of honour at this year's expo.

Mr Lee exchanged views with Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli on China's proposal for a third government-to-government project in the western region, said a statement from the Prime Minister's press secretary. 

Mr Lee had earlier told Guangdong's Nanfang Daily that the project must fit in with China's priorities, be fully supported by the local authorities, and commercially viable. 

Mr Zhang co-chairs the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) with Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. It is the highest platform for bilateral exchange between the two countries.

The JCBC will meet later this year in coastal Suzhou city to mark the 20th anniversary of the Suzhou Industrial Park, the first bilateral flagship project.

The proposed third government-to-government project will likely figure on the JCBC agenda as well.

The two leaders yesterday also discussed the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations next year, including the exchange of state visits by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. 

With close cooperation in the two government-to-government projects (Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city) as well as the private sector-led Guangzhou Knowledge City, relations between Singapore and China are excellent, affirmed both leaders.

Mr Lee visited Guangzhou Knowledge City for the first time last week during the Guangdong leg of his week-long tour of southern China.

After his meeting with Mr Zhang yesterday, Mr Lee toured some Singapore companies' exhibition booths at the annual trade fair. He also met Guangxi party secretary Peng Qinghua.

Mr Peng noted that Singapore- Guangxi trade, which reached US$660 million (S$835 million) last year, a 172 per cent year-on- year increase, is on the rise. There are more than 180 Singapore companies invested in Guangxi. 

He also proposed greater collaboration between Singapore and Guangxi in three areas - port management, organisation of conferences and exhibitions, and financial services - noting that these are where Guangxi wants to learn from Singapore. 

Today, Mr Lee will deliver the keynote speech at the expo's opening ceremony and officiate at the opening of the Singapore Pavilion together with Vice-Premier Zhang.

Mr Lee will then hold a round-table dialogue with Chinese businessmen before leaving for Hong Kong, the last stop of his trip.

Guangxi offers 'lots of advantages as springboard to rest of China'
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2014

After a three-year study, Singapore company Strategic Petroleum settled on the south-western Guangxi region as the first place in China where it could take its home-grown waste conversion technology.

Besides being culturally and geographically similar to Singapore - Guangxi denizens speak Cantonese and it is China's only western area with a port - the region offers lower business costs than neighbouring Guangdong, with its more advanced economy.

The Singapore firm found an ideal partner in Guigang city, which hosts plywood manufacturers anxious to find a way to get rid of their waste wood in an environmentally friendly way. 

Yesterday, it signed a deal to set up a pilot plant in the district that would use its gassification process to turn waste wood into natural gas.

"We're not going to confine ourselves to Guangxi region," managing director Ace Gueh told The Straits Times yesterday. "But as a springboard to the rest of China, it has a lot of advantages."

This includes its designation as the start point of the Chinese central government's plan to revive the ancient Maritime Silk Road, which winds through the South China Sea and links Guangxi with Singapore and other ASEAN countries.

Beijing will push out various incentives to promote the Silk Road to foreign investors and "Singaporeans shouldn't wait too long to come in and explore and see what they can do", noted Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman Teo Siong Seng.

He arrived in Nanning this year for the annual China-ASEAN Expo with a biggest-ever delegation of over 90 firms.

All three Singapore banks - DBS Bank, United Overseas Bank and OCBC- are represented here for the first time and a flurry of tie-ups between Singapore and Guangxi companies are set to be inked.

Several of these were cemented under aggressive courting by Guangxi's local government, which wants to position itself both as a gateway to ASEAN - it shares a border with Vietnam - and a gateway to China's vast western inland region.

Although companies were reluctant to reveal details like favourable tax policies, they said the Guangxi government prioritised and facilitated their investments.

IAG Healthsciences signed a memorandum of understanding with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants to set up a centre for traditional Chinese medicine research. IAG saw its deal materialise in just two months thanks to the local health authorities and Guangxi's investment promotion bureau.

"The key issue for us was that the government is very proactive in the promotion of trade between China-ASEAN countries," said Mr Patrick Teng, the founder of financial training firm Six Capital, which is collaborating with the Guangxi University of Finance and Economics to set up a 20ha institution to train Chinese and ASEAN foreign exchange traders.

"Because the costs are lower, it's not difficult for people from emerging countries to live and train here," he added.

Still, Guangxi is less globalised and liveable than its glamorous Guangdong neighbour, a major challenge for Singaporean businesses which are part of this pioneer wave.

SBF's Mr Teo cited the lack of transport links - with most businessmen having to go through Shanghai or Guangzhou to get to Guangxi - and the lack of trained professionals in various industries as an obstacle to doing business.

"Top-notch researchers and personnel need a good and suitable environment not just to live and work but also to encourage the flow and interaction of ideas," said IAG Healthsciences group managing director Shen Lee. "This is lacking in Guangxi at the moment."

Shenzhen needs to learn from Singapore, says party boss
By Rachel Chang In Shenzhen, The Sunday Times, 14 Sep 2014

With its high-tech industries, migrant population and clear blue skies, southern metropolis Shenzhen is the most similar to Singapore among Chinese cities, said its party boss Wang Rong.

But while Shenzhen's rapid development has been an "urbanisation miracle", Mr Wang told visiting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday that the city still needs to learn from Singapore, especially in areas like social governance and managing social conflict.

In their meeting, Mr Lee said he was sure that there would be opportunities for Singapore and Shenzhen to work together.

He added that he was struck by Shenzhen's rapid transformation since his last visit in 1991. Then, he made the trip from Guangzhou to Shenzhen by car, and it took four to five hours.

Last Friday, he and his delegation made the same trip in 36 minutes via a high-speed train.

Mr Wang is a familiar face to Singapore leaders due to his previous post as Suzhou party boss from 2004 to 2009. The city in Jiangsu province houses the first Sino-Singapore joint venture, the Suzhou Industrial Park.

It has been almost 10 years since they last met, noted Mr Lee, and he was glad for the chance to renew their acquaintance.

On the third day of Mr Lee's week-long visit to southern China and his last in manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong province, he also visited the Lotus Hill Park, famed for its bronze statue of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who designated Shenzhen as the pioneer site of his plan to open up China three decades ago.

Mr Deng's reform and opening-up blueprint was influenced by his meeting in 1978 with former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Mr Wang told Mr Lee.

Mr Lee also visited Chinese Internet giant Tencent yesterday, where he was given a tour of the company's products and apps by co-founder Pony Ma, one of China's richest men.

Tencent is the company behind WeChat and QQ, China's most popular social media and messaging platforms. The company has now expanded into online payment, maps, video streaming and a variety of other services.

Mr Lee wrapped up his tour of Shenzhen with a visit to the Qianhai development zone before departing for Guilin, a city in the south-western Guangxi region.

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