Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Singapore as a 21st century maritime silk road


Update: 16 May 2017: 5 ways China can sink our economy
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LET'S NOT BEAT around the bush. PM Lee Hsien Loong's absence at the New Silk Road summit currently taking place in China is a big deal.

Was he not invited or did he elect not to attend (and despatched National Development Minister Lawrence Wong instead)? The former seems the more plausible account. Either way, the development can only be described as doomy.

The summit, attended by 28 heads of government, is Beijing's way of announcing its intention of breaking out from under the United State's world domination, at least in the sphere of trade and commerce. Here are are five ways Beijing is doing this:
  • Melaka Gateway
  • East Coast Railway Line (ECRL)
  • New Silk Road
  • Arctic Route
  • Kra Canal

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China Frictions May See Singapore Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions
China’s plan for a maritime “Silk Road” to Europe is helping channel funds to Southeast Asia for roads, railways and ports. But amid the deals bonanza, one country risks missing out

Despite strong historical and cultural ties to China, the tiny state of Singapore has found itself in Beijing’s crosshairs, in part for its stance over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As other Southeast Asian leaders lined up to meet President Xi Jinping at a summit in Beijing this week for his Belt-and-Road Initiative, Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan because unlike other countries that announced their leaders would attend without requiring a formal invitation, Singapore sought an invite, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information.
“The cooler political relationship between Singapore and China could have ripple effects which influence economic and trade relations,” said Lu Jianren, a researcher at the China-Asean Research Institute at China’s Guangxi University. “Singapore has been less proactive to work with China while many leaders in the region showed greater enthusiasm that they want Beijing to be more involved in Southeast Asian growth.”
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. “I wouldn’t say we have major problems; we’ve had some issues and some incidents,” Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said of China, in an interview aired by the BBC in March.

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Singapore risks being left out of the loop on B&R regional integration

Indeed, on a visit to the US White House in 2013, Lee saw fit to joke about pig soup and pollution at China's expense.

In Chinese, if not Asian culture and diplomatic protocol, this was a big faux pas - all the more so as it occurred in the capital of China's No. 1 strategic rival.

Too often, Singapore, then at the height of its prosperity, seemed to be flaunting its new orientation, without regard for Chinese sensibilities

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WHAT BELT AND ROAD SNUB MEANS FOR SINGAPORE’S TIES WITH CHINA
Not invited: Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: AFP
Not invited Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Photo: AFP

China’s decision not to invite Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to last weekend’s Belt and Road Forum highlights the still-strained ties between the two countries, observers say, though officials in the Lion City have tried to shrug off talk of any diplomatic rift.

Of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members, only three countries were not represented by their heads of government at the high-level summit in Beijing: Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Twenty-nine national leaders and the representatives of 28 other countries attended the two-day meeting to discuss the China-led initiative to rebuild the ancient Silk Road trade route through a network of new ports, railways and roads.

The Singapore delegation was led by national development minister Lawrence Wong. In an interview with travelling Singaporean media, Wong revealed that the invitations were decided by China. It was the first official acknowledgement that Lee was not invited.

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3 myths about Singapore-China ties
Much chatter online & off has taken place on why Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong did not attend the inaugural Belt & Road Forum in Beijing last weekend

The event organised by China had heads of state & government from 29 countries attending, including 7 out of 10 from Asean. Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

2 schools of thought prevailed: China snubbed Singapore. No, it was Singapore that didn't want to take part.

3 myths floating out there that merit being plucked from the ocean of misinformation & tossed into the incinerator:
  • SINGAPORE HAS CHANGED ITS STANCE ON CHINA AND NOW ALIGNS ITSELF MORE OVERTLY WITH THE UNITED STATES
  • SINGAPORE IS A CHINESE SOCIETY AND SHOULD BE MORE SYMPATHETIC TO CHINA
  • CHINA IS OUT TO PUNISH SINGAPORE, AND SINGAPOREANS SHOULD FEEL WORRIED ABOUT THIS AND PRESSURE THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT TO BE MORE ACCOMMODATING OF CHINA

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One Belt, One Road, One Singapore – Analysis
Main routes of the Silk Road. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

In the 14th century, Mongol dominance in Asia resulted in the Pax Mongolica, a framework of peaceful trading relationships straddling the Maritime and Overland Silk Roads, allowing the Kingdom of Singapura to flourish into a wealthy entrepot trading port.

Today, the two roads are severed, and trade between Central Asia and Singapore is tiny, much more so for non-oil merchandise. The low volume of trade is evident considering Central Asia’s landlocked position presents a significant barrier of trade to the maritime trading hub that is Singapore. Today, China’s One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative promises to direct international attention to regional infrastructure development, effectively resurrecting a new Pax Sinica.

This new economic paradigm could well create exciting new opportunities for Singaporean trade and investment in an untapped region. This report will focus on Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and the ways Singapore can capitalize on its unique expertise in the OBOR initiative.

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China no longer regards Singapore as a friend: pro-Beijing newspaper

Singapore Prime Minister’s absence from the One Belt One Road forum held in China earlier in May is “a watershed moment in regional affairs and marked the end of the era of amicable ties that Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, had so painstakingly nurtured with Asia’s economic superpower.”

This was the view of “seasoned Asia-watchers”, said the pro-Beijing newspaper, The Global Times.

For the uninitiated, The Global Times is regarded as the vehicle whose “messages are a transmission from within the heart of CCP power.”

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PM Lee not invited to Belt and Road forum, is S’pore in trouble?

The high-profile “Belt and Road” Forum recently held in Beijing from May 14 to 15, attended by 29 national leaders and the representatives of 28 other countries, captured the world’s attention with Chinese President Xi Jinping pledging to splash the cash to help revive ancient trade routes and build infrastructure across the region.

The amount of investment planned so far for the initiative is massive – over US$1 trillion.

Even more trade and investment plans – US$113 billion-worth – was announced at the forum on top of previous commitments. It is no wonder that, China’s growing political and economic dominance coupled with the scope of “Belt and Road” has sparked concerns of possible debt-trap diplomacy among countries that have benefited or will benefit from China’s ambitious regional agenda.

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What China’s snub of Singapore means

But while nearly half of the 57 countries were not represented by their heads of government, foreign policy experts said Lee’s absence was conspicuous as it provided clues on the extent of the fallout following a protracted diplomatic spat between the two countries over the past year.

Xue Li, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences think tank, said China’s decision not to invite the Singaporean leader reflected a growing belief in Beijing that the Lion City sought only economic benefits from China, while “relying on the US for security”.

“China is gradually recognising this and therefore doesn’t really care if the Singapore PM attended or not,” Xue said.

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Singapore May Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions
China Snub Means Singapore May Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions

China’s plan for a maritime “Silk Road” to Europe is helping channel funds to Southeast Asia for roads, railways and ports.

But amid the deals bonanza, one country risks missing out. Despite strong historical and cultural ties to China, the tiny state of Singapore has found itself in Beijing’s crosshairs, in part for its stance over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

As other Southeast Asian leaders lined up to meet President Xi Jinping at a summit in Beijing this week for his Belt-and-Road Initiative, Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan.

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How China snubbed Singapore at the Belt and Road summit

Among the 29 Heads of State who converged on Beijing for the Belt and Road Summit earlier this week were leaders of seven of the ten ASEAN states. One leader was noticeably missing: Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Various observers have noted this absence, including Hugh White, who suggested it was no co-incidence that, like others - Japan, India, Australia and ‘most western countries’ - who had not sent their national leaders to Beijing, Singapore was aligned with the US and uneasy about China’s rise – ‘or perceived to be so’.

However, it has since emerged that Singapore was never given the choice. China had not invited Singapore’s prime minister in the first place. This is surprising, especially as Singapore has been one of the biggest advocates of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While many other states were initially hesitant in signing up to BRI, including some of its ASEAN neighbours, Singapore’s support has been unequivocal from the beginning. Many high-level co-operation talks between China and Singapore on the subject have taken place, with both sides warmly welcoming cooperation on BRI.

In light of this past co-operation, Beijing’s snub is significant. It is fair to conclude that, if China continues to freeze out Singapore, there could be significant implications on at least three levels:
  • What it might mean for Sino-Singapore relations
  • Implications for other middle powers
  • Implications for China’s role in the world

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PM Lee’s absence in B&R forum in Beijing – is China still throwing a tantrum?

The reply by Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong, was a curious and perhaps a telling one.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was not attending the Belt and Road forum in Beijing, Mr Wong said “the invitation was decided by the Chinese”, according to the Straits TimesMr Wong did not seem to have elaborated on his answer.

PM Lee’s absence has not gone unnoticed, given how several leaders from Asean countries were among the 29 heads of states who apparently were invited and attended the forum which ran from 14-15 May. Considering that the forum was also an important one, for China especially, the fact that PM Lee was not there is quite curious. After all, Singapore and China share, at least according to official statements, “deep ties’.

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Will Singapore be the biggest loser from China's One-Belt-One-Road initiative given that its trade routes can be bypassed?

As a Singaporean, I am worried. China is doing what is in her interests.

So, even if Singapore ends up being destroyed, we have ourselves to blame for not responding to this threat.

Don’t blame China. It would be nice if answers can suggest how Singapore can adapt to this threat.

related: Will Singapore falter after One belt one road initiative?

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One Belt, One Road – Analysis

In 2015, Singapore exported US$61.3 million worth of goods and services to Central Asia, while importing US$6.1 million, representing 0.015 percent of Singapore’s total exports and 0.002 percent of total imports; and 0.07 percent of Central Asia’s total exports and 0.009 percent of total imports.

While Singapore is a global trading and investment powerhouse, business experience and exposure in Central Asia has never been strong. In 2014, only 32 enterprises in Uzbekistan operated with Singaporean capital, and Singapore contributed only US$50 million of direct investment to Kazakhstan over the last ten years in contrast to US$604 billion of total foreign direct investment in 2014 alone.

Central Asia is not directly connected to Singapore, and land routes to ports in the region are scant. However, as the One Road-One Belt Initiative links Central Asia to China’s eastern seaboard, Gwadar port and even the impending sanction-free Iran; inter-regional trade is awash with new connections and opportunities.

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South China Morning Post SCMP 19 hrs
Why wasn't Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong invited to China's Belt and Road Summit?

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China's Belt and Road project could bring opportunities and challenges to S'pore: Minister Lawrence Wong

When asked why Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not attend the Belt & Road Forum, which was attended by 29 heads of state & government, including many from South-east Asia, Mr Wong said the invitation was decided by the Chinese.

He noted that the focus of the forum was on outbound investments, & in getting Chinese investments abroad and encouraging Chinese companies to go overseas.

"We don't have any specific projects as of now that may be part of this Belt & Road (initiative) in terms of infrastructure," he said.

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The PM wasn’t invited to Beijing

IT DIDN’T escape notice that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wasn’t at the biggest diplomatic event held in China over the weekend. The guest list was filled with luminaries including his counterparts in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. There were in all 29 heads of state or government. Singapore was represented instead by Minister Lawrence Wong.
Asked why the PM Lee wasn’t there, he said that the invitation was decided by the Chinese.
So on Sunday, PM Lee was giving out flowers to his Ang Mo Kio constituents on the occasion of Mother’s Day, rather than hobnobbing with other leaders over what seemed to be the most ambitious economic project in recent time.

His absence in Beijing is intriguing and only serves to raise questions about whether Singapore and China had papered over their differences since the seizure of Singapore Armed Forces vehicles by Hong Kong authorities in November last year. Or are the Chinese still pissed off at Singapore’s lack of empathy over its position on the South China Sea?

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Straits Times: 3 myths about Singapore-China ties
“First, Singapore hasn’t changed in its foreign policy. It is China that has changed its view and demands on Singapore.”

China’s investments in Malaysia take “decades” to be developed:
  • "As for the Belt and Road displacing the Malacca Strait as the premier shipping belt, it would take many more years for that to happen, if not decades. Meanwhile, even as port projects are being planned around Malaysia and Indochina – presumably as alternatives to Singapore – port planners here aren’t keeping still. Singapore was named maritime capital of the world for the third time this year.”
  • "At the same time, China is still far too dependent on imports through the Malacca Strait to seriously oppose Singapore. The seizing of goods in ports can, after all, easily be done by both parties."
  • “China does not have much power to put Singapore back in line, as Chinese economic statecraft so far has been relatively unsuccessful. Singapore is also in a very different position from its neighbouring countries as it manages an advanced economy and many international security relationships across the world.”

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OBOR International Forum Vs Mother's Day

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong not invited
The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo and Malaysia’s Najib Razak in a photo shared on Najib’s Twitter account. Photo: Twitter

According to China state media South China Morning Post (SCMP), the China central government has confirmed that Lee Hsien Loong was deliberately left out of the invitation at the Belt and Road forum.

Of the 10 ASEAN countries, Singapore Prime Minister’s absence is painfully conspicuous because Singapore is supposed to take over the ASEAN Chairmanship next year (2018).

When interviewed by a foreign media why he was not invited to the China meeting, Lee Hsien Loong gave an awkward silence.

It’s attracting investors to consider the city-state as new trade route

With China being an important trading partner, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) courts more Chinese companies to choose the Lion City as a modern trade route.

SBF is leading a business mission in the 13th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Guangxi, China where it is promoting the city-state as a hub for the 21st century maritime silk road and modern connectivity.

“Guangxi is an increasingly important regional gateway between China and ASEAN. It is in close proximity to ASEAN countries and forms an important node connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road. Through this mission, we hope to help businesses better understand and participate in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, and showcase Singapore’s strengths as a modern connectivity hub to investors from China and the region,” said S S Teo, chairman of SBF.

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S$30b to support S’pore and China firms in One Belt, One Road projects

About S$30 billion of financial support will be made available to S'pore & China companies investing in projects under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative through S'pore, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries.

The MOU, signed by International Enterprise (IE) S'pore and China’s state-owned China Construction Bank (CCB) yesterday, is the latter’s first such partnership with a Southeast Asian country. As a start, the two have facilitated project discussions between a group of more than 30 S'pore and China companies to explore collaborations in infrastructure and connectivity, as well as info-communications and technology.

“These are 2 topics we are starting off with, but it’s not the only two sectors that can be covered by this initiative. I think there are a lot more sectors in urban development, in energy sectors that we can cover … I think One Belt, One Road is something major, we cannot afford to not participate in it and find some business opportunities there,” said Mr Ho Chee Hin, IE’s China group director.

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China invests $51b in Belt, Road nations

China had invested $51.1 billion in countries within the Belt and Road initiative since 2013, and investment from those countries to China was nearly $3.4 billion, according to a report released at a seminar held in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province on Monday.

The report, published by the Renmin University of China (RUC), said China invested about $6.9 billion in the first half of 2016, most of which went to Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Russia. And trade between China and countries along the route in 2016 reached $3.1 trillion, or 26 percent of China's foreign trade volume.

It also said coordinating development strategies has begun with many countries along the route, including Kazakhstan and Russia, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

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Deals to boost Singapore's role in One Belt, One Road initiative
Surbana Jurong chairman Liew Mun Leong speaking at an inaugural forum on financing for One Belt, One Road infrastructure projects yesterday. The firm's agreement would allow it to offer its clients a full suite of financial & engineering expertise for urban infrastructure projects, he said.FOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

China's largest bank is throwing its weight behind S'pore organisations and companies to join in the One Belt, One Road initiative.

A raft of agreements to increase Sino-Singapore cooperation was signed yesterday between the Singapore branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and 5 local parties.

One agreement was inked with the S'pore Business Federation (SBF), extending up to 50 billion yuan ($10.2 billion) in funding to SBF members for infrastructure investments under the initiative.

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One Belt, One Road, One Singapore – Analysis
Map of the One Road-One Belt Initiative (SREB in yellow, MSR in blue, Prepared by the author

In the 14th century, Mongol dominance in Asia resulted in the Pax Mongolica, a framework of peaceful trading relationships straddling the Maritime and Overland Silk Roads, allowing the Kingdom of Singapura to flourish into a wealthy entrepot trading port. Today, the two roads are severed, and trade between Central Asia and Singapore is tiny, much more so for non-oil merchandise. The low volume of trade is evident considering Central Asia’s landlocked position presents a significant barrier of trade to the maritime trading hub that is Singapore.

Today, China’s One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative promises to direct international attention to regional infrastructure development, effectively resurrecting a new Pax Sinica. This new economic paradigm could well create exciting new opportunities for Singaporean trade and investment in an untapped region.

This report will focus on Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and the ways Singapore can capitalize on its unique expertise in the OBOR initiative.

read more

Lianhe Zaobao and SBF jointly launch "One Belt, One Road" portal

A portal dedicated to the China-initiated “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) strategy, jointly developed by Lianhe Zaobao (LHZB), the Chinese flagship newspaper of S'pore Press Holdings (SPH), and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), was officially launched today. It is Southeast Asia’s first comprehensive website focusing on OBOR, with the objective of driving a deep understanding of OBOR among S'pore enterprises, as well as offering Chinese readers around the world a Singaporean and Southeast Asian perspective on OBOR.

The portal was unveiled by Guest-of-Honour Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress; HE Mr Chen Xiao Dong, Ambassador of People's Republic of China to S'pore, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Chairman of SPH, Mr Teo Siong Seng, Chairman of SBF, Mr Anthony Tan, Executive Vice-President of SPH's Chinese Media Group and Mr Ho Meng Kit, Chief Executive Officer of SBF at a ceremony this evening at SPH News Centre Auditorium.

OBOR is a collective term for the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road combined. In September and October 2013 during his visit to Central Asia and Southeast Asia, Mr Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, announced the joint development of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. OBOR is currently China’s top national-level strategy.

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One Belt One Road: One with Singapore

Proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is an attempt to boost trade and political relations between China, Europe, and Asia. As one of China's leading trade partners and being one of Asia's original hub for finance and trade, S'pore is set to benefit from this initiative through infrastructure & logistics, tourism, & finance, that in return will create more job opportunities for S'pore and the countries along the Belt Road.

A leader in urban and industrial infrastructure combined with its expertise in logistics solution, Singapore is well suited to enter the Central Asian markets that have gradually opened because of the OBOR. The country's central position in Southeast Asia has helped and is still helping neighboring countries' trading and logistics development.

With this, businesses in China have been actively investing in Singapore's infrastructure projects.

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China expected to play more practical role in Belt and Road Initiative
The International Seminar on the Belt and Road Initiative is held in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Sept. 26, 2016. (Xinhua/Shao Rui)

China sees itself not only as an initiator but also a responsible and reliable practitioner of the Belt and Road Initiative, suggested a think tank in a report on the three-year progress of "Belt and Road," released on Sept. 26.

Since the Belt and Road Initiative is a long-term and systematic program, China should take measures in five areas, including policy, talent cultivation and business support, the report stated. These measures will ensure that China plays a more practical role in the development of the initiative. The report, titled "Adhering to the Planning, Order and Pragmatic Construction of the 'Belt and Road,'" was released on Monday.

The report emphasizes the role of business support systems as a source of power for the initiative’s development.

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About One Belt, One Road

The One Belt, One Road Initiative (“一带一路” or OBOR) refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road development strategy launched by the Chinese government. OBOR was first unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the aim of connecting 65 countries across three continents to China. The initiative seeks to promote economic co-operation among countries along the land and sea routes.

OBOR is a flow of people, goods, trade, capital and ideas. This flow can only come about when the countries, the people and the economies are highly connected by roads, rail, aviation, trade, investment, banking and finance.

The OBOR initiative aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe over land through Europe-Asia continental roads, and sea routes through South China Sea and Indian Ocean. The ambitious plan aims to connect an estimated 4.4 billion people across these regions through building infrastructure and boosting financial and trade ties for the countries that lie along the routes. Connectivity is core to the OBOR initiative, with promising benefits for many countries.

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IE Singapore partners ICBC to boost Singapore companies’ participation in “One Belt, One Road” frastructure projects

As part of continued efforts to engage Chinese banks for Singapore companies to capture “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) infrastructure opportunities, International Enterprise (IE) Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, Singapore Branch (ICBC) today. ICBC will provide financing services and look at project structuring to support Singapore companies in OBOR infrastructure projects across Asia.

With this latest MOU, IE Singapore’s partnerships with Chinese banks brings to the table more than S$90 billion worth of financing for OBOR projects. IE Singapore signed an MOU with China Construction Bank last month and with Bank of China in November last year to deepen OBOR partnerships in Southeast Asia.

Said Mr Chua Taik Him, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, IE Singapore, “China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative has opened up investment opportunities in infrastructure projects for Singapore companies. ICBC is a vital partner to work with as it has the clearing capacity for Renminbi and sound knowledge of Chinese companies. Through this strategic partnership, IE Singapore and ICBC can leverage on each other’s global networks to meet the market opportunities.”

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One Belt, One Road not 'by China, for China'

PANELLISTS at the Singapore Regional Business Forum on Tuesday said that even though the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) development framework and setting up of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are often seen as China-driven initiatives for China's own benefit, this is not very true.

In fact, the Chinese government has been trying to promote both as regional platforms, and AIIB has already begun funding projects in neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The OBOR, first unveiled in 2013, is a key part of China's development strategy to deepen economic cooperation with countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. It has the potential to benefit some 60 countries with a population of 4.4 billion people along the economic belt, and much of the investments is likely to be in infrastructure.


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Singapore 'can help One Belt, One Road project reach potential'

Singapore can play a key role in helping China's ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative reach its full potential, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

He told a forum that while the initiative was inspired by the ancient overland and maritime trade routes, it will need to incorporate other dimensions of connectivity to really flourish - and this is where Singapore can help.

"To me, whether it's One Belt, One Road, or the Maritime Silk Road, it goes beyond the two dimensions of conventional land and sea connectivity. It will be what I call a five-dimensional connectivity - that's land, sea, air, data and finance," he said.

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Singapore firms to receive $10.2 billion to help build China's OBOR initiative
Funds will be used for infrastructure projects across Asia

The S'pore branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is shelling out S$10.2 billion (RMB 50 billion) to support infrastructure development initiatives by local companies as it lays the groundwork in the city-state for China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

The S'pore Business Federation (SBF) revealed it signed an agreement with ICBC to assist Singapore-based firms in seeking opportunities under OBOR and in the regional and global expansion of trade and investments.

“As the world’s largest RMB bank and S'pore’s sole RMB clearing bank, ICBC intends to provide financing services and project financing structure to support SBF member companies in OBOR infrastructure projects across Asia,” SBF explained.

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New Silk Road's impact on shipping will be limited
China's ambitious plans to create a modern-day Silk Road by way of building roads and railways abroad are unlikely to change the face of global shipping. This means Spore's position as a key hub port, in turn, will be little affected as well. FOTO: ST FILE

China made further headway in its drive to connect with the rest of the world by high-speed rail when it launched its 1st rail freight service to Britain on Sunday.

China Railway Corporation announced on Monday that the train, carrying clothes, bags & other items, departed from Yiwu in the eastern Zhejiang province, said a Bloomberg report. It will travel more than 12,000km over 18 days - passing through places such as Kazakhstan, Russia and Germany - before arriving in London.

London is the 15th European city to now have direct trains from China as part of President Xi Jinping's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, which is aimed at boosting trade ties with markets across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

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China Launch World-First Shipping Route

China has launched the first shipping route to connect the Middle East and the Beibu Gulf, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which comprises the ports of Qinzhou, Beihai and Fangchenggang, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

The Iranian container ship ‘Perarin’ arrived at Qinzhou Port on January 27, 2016 to deliver 978 containers from several countries along the Maritime Silk Road. The Maritime Silk Road was proposed by China to boost foreign trading in and around the Indian Ocean and as a way to boost trading relationships.

It was previously reported that Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China had struck a deal with Malaysia as part of its Maritime Silk Road plan. The deal aims to boost business relations between China’s Lianyungang Port and Malaysia’s Port Klang.

related:
New Silk Road Connects London
China in Multi-Billion Dollar Silk Road Drive
Thailand Proposes $20bn Silk-Road-Canal
China in $40 billion maritime plan
China in Silk-Road Policy Drive

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Impact and opportunities for Asia and Europe: One belt one road

Now the legendary Silk Road is one of  Beijing’s most important international trade and development initiatives – nicknamed: “One Belt One Road”, or OBOR as it is frequently referred to. At present China’s economy is the world’s second largest behind the United States and ahead of Japan. The Silk Road was proposed to sustain this economic growth and development. The modern iteration of the Silk Road is the New Silk Road economic belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road – which in the past linked Asia, Europe and Africa

The One Belt One Road initiative is the key driver of China’s economic, foreign and domestic policy. Its focus is to re-energise ancient Silk Road trade routes to open markets both within and outside the region. The Travel China Guide colourfully explains: “From the second century BC to the end of the fourteenth century AD, a great trade route originated from Chang’an (now Xian) in the east and ended at the Mediterranean in the west, linking China with the Roman Empire. Because silk was the major trade product which travelled on this road, it was named the Silk Road in 1877 by Ferdinanad von Richthofen – a well-known German geographer.

This ancient route not only circulated goods, but also exchanged the splendid cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome. Many great events happened on this ancient road, making the trade route historically important. Famous travellers along the road were its bright pearls, making it glorious. A great number of soldiers gave their lives to protect it. These are some of the reasons the road is still a time-honoured treasure.”

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China's One Belt, One Road initiative could usher in new growth: Josephine Teo

The Republic could be poised to take advantage of a new area of growth through its participation in China's One Belt, One Road trade initiative, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo at a forum on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road on Monday (Jul 27).

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was 1st proposed by China in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is aimed at fostering collaboration along the historic Silk Road & maritime routes, which would pass through Southeast Asia, Middle East and East Africa. The Maritime Silk Road is part of China's overall One Belt, One Road framework which will also include the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt.

Given the scale of the One Belt, One Road initiative, with the maritime portion potentially spanning 65 countries across three continents, Mrs Teo said there is "much to be gained by approaching One Belt, One Road as a process of co-creation where participating countries see themselves as being able to influence the outcome and retain a sense of ownership over the pace and texture of collaboration".

related: S'pore should actively support 'One Belt, One Road' initiative

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Singapore 'can help One Belt, One Road project reach potential'

S'pore can play a key role in helping China's ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative reach its full potential, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

He told a forum that while the initiative was inspired by the ancient overland and maritime trade routes, it will need to incorporate other dimensions of connectivity to really flourish - and this is where S'pore can help.

"To me, whether it's One Belt, One Road, or the Maritime Silk Road, it goes beyond the two dimensions of conventional land and sea connectivity. It will be what I call a 5-dimensional connectivity - that's land, sea, air, data and finance," he said.

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Main routes of the Silk Road

In 2015, Singapore exported US$61.3 million worth of goods and services to Central Asia, while importing US$6.1 million, representing 0.015 percent of Singapore’s total exports and 0.002 percent of total imports; and 0.07 percent of Central Asia’s total exports and 0.009 percent of total imports.

While Singapore is a global trading and investment powerhouse, business experience and exposure in Central Asia has never been strong. In 2014, only 32 enterprises in Uzbekistan operated with Singaporean capital, and Singapore contributed only US$50 million of direct investment to Kazakhstan over the last ten years in contrast to US$604 billion of total foreign direct investment in 2014 alone. Central Asia is not directly connected to Singapore, and land routes to ports in the region are scant.

However, as the One Road-One Belt Initiative links Central Asia to China’s eastern seaboard, Gwadar port and even the impending sanction-free Iran; inter-regional trade is awash with new connections and opportunities.


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Photographers, filmmaker address past and future of age-old trade route
Liu Heung Shing makes a speech. Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Center of Photography

What do Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Liu Heung Shing, Oscar-winning English filmmaker Malcolm Clarke, and local photographer Er Dongqiang have in common? They have a keen interest in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

The three were on hand for a one-day seminar earlier this month titled "One Belt One Road and Diverse Cultures of the New Century" at the Shanghai Center of Photography, which Liu founded.

Clarke introduced a seven-part documentary on the New Silk Road, The Best of All Worlds, which he made alongside documentary filmmakers like Lorenz Knauer.

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How China's Belt And Road Economic Corridors Are Enhanced By The UN's TIR Convention
In this photo taken on July 7, 2012, trucks loaded with coking coal line up to enter a customs border between Mongolia and China near Tsogttsetsii, in southern Mongolia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China is not wasting any time making use of their new membership in the UN’s TIR Convention. Hardly a month after joining the trans-Eurasian transit pact, which enables authorized transporters to move goods through 70 member states across the EU, the CIS, and parts of the Middle East and North Africa by road with just a single customs inspection, China began testing the feasibility of their new economic corridor that will run through Mongolia and into eastern Russia.

This new corridor, which was signed into existence in June, will funnel China’s domestic transportation network into those of its neighbors to the north, essentially bringing the Belt and Road together with Mongolia’s Prairie Road program and Russia’s transcontinental rail and road systems. It’s ultimate aim, of course, is to advance economic and political ties, lay a groundwork for mutually beneficial infrastructure projects, and ultimately to increase trade between China, Mongolia, and Russia.

These three extremely large countries in the heart of Asia ultimately rely on each other for a large amount of their economic sustenance. 24.6 trillion kilos of freight were shipped between China and Russia and Mongolia last year alone. Upwards of 80% of Mongolia’s export value goes to China and a third of the country’s imports come from China — in fact, three-quarters of Mongolia’s economy was found to be reliant on its neighbor to the south, according to an IMF report in 2012. China is also Russia’s top trading partner, accounting for roughly $40 billion worth of exports and $50 billion in imports each year.


The real threat to S’pore – construction of Thai’s Kra Canal financed by China

On Thursday, the overseas edition of People’s Daily also published an online commentary, saying Singapore “has obviously taken sides over South China Sea issues, while emphasising it does not”. In other words, China is accusing the Singapore government of saying one thing but doing another – a hypocrite.

Online, the Chinese netizens condemned Singapore as a “2-headed snake”. One of them wrote:
(Translation: China should quickly embark on the Kra Canal project and turn Singapore back into a third world country. This is the best present to give to a “2-headed snake”.)
If the Kra Canal truly becomes a reality, ships would certainly consider by-passing the Strait of Malacca and Singapore altogether, making the Singapore’s all-important geographical location redundant. We may truly become a third world country after all.

related: Will our $100 billion Chinese investments go up in smoke?

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Thailand Proposes $20bn Silk-Road-Canal

A new canal situated in Southern Thailand called the Kra Canal could be included as part of China’s Maritime Silk Road plan.

According to World Maritime News, a feasibility study of the new canal has already been conducted and shows that the 26-metre-deep and less-than-100-kilometre-long waterway would cost around US$20bn.

Upon completion, the canal is to offer a route that will allow ships to avoid sailing through the Malacca Strait, a region that is expected to become heavily congested in the next ten years. The canal is also anticipated to save up to 48 hours for shipping companies transiting routes between Asia and Europe.

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Silk Road Vision Takes Shape

The Silk Road network took new steps towards development today as it was confirmed by Turkmenistan’s president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, that the first section of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan (TAT) railway has been commissioned, reported CCTV news.

TAT will provide opportunities for countries in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, according to Berdimuhamedov, who was joined by Afghanistan’s president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, at an opening ceremony on November 28, 2016, to mark the occasion. Ghani claims that the new railway will revive the Silk Road and will turn into an important transport corridor to Europe, the Pacific and Asia.

Silk Road network relations also improved recently when Pakistani officials welcomed the first large shipment of Chinese goods through its port of Gwadar, a deep-water port that is a gateway of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which encompasses roads and energy plans.

related:
Technical Paper: China’s One Belt Road
China Silk Road Secures $100bn Subsidy
China in Silk-Road Policy Drive
China in $40 billion maritime plan
China in Silk Road-Suez Canal Grab
New Silk Road Connects London
Tag "one belt one road"

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Full Coverage:
Deals to boost Singapore's role in One Belt, One Road initiative
S-E Asia promising for Chinese firms seeking infrastructure projects
Singapore 'can help One Belt, One Road project reach potential
One Belt, One Road, One Singapore – Analysis | HKTDC
SINGAPORE :: ONE BELT ONE ROAD REPORT
S$30b to support S'pore and China firms in One Belt, One Road projects
China's One Belt, One Road initiative could usher in new growth
Singapore should actively support 'One Belt, One Road' initiative
"One Belt, One Road" portal - Singapore Business Federation
One Belt One Road: One with Singapore, Corporate News by Media
About One Belt, One Road - China - Venture ... - (IE) Singapore
IE Singapore partners ICBC to boost Singapore companies' participation
One Belt, One Road not 'by China, for China' - Media ... - (IE) Singapore
Singapore 'can help One Belt, One Road project reach potential' - Chin
Deals to boost Singapore's role in One Belt, One Road initiative
S-E Asia promising for Chinese firms seeking infrastructure projects
Singapore firms to receive $10.2 billion to help build China's OBOR
ICBC signs five deals to boost commitment to infrastructure
SGX and ICBC sign MOU to enhance capital market links between
One Belt One Road: One with Singapore
Impact and opportunities for Asia and Europe: One belt one road
S'pore firms in Beijing to seek project tie-ups
Singapore-China ties broad and substantial: PM Lee
SBF markets Singapore as a 21st century maritime silk road
China, Malaysia Mull Dispute Resolution for 'Belt and Road' Countries
Chongqing firms benefit from Singapore links
Why India Is Wary of China's Silk Road Initiative
Singapore firms eye growth opportunities in Chongqing
Chongqing initiative could be highlight of cooperation: Xi Jinping
Why India distrusts China's One Belt One Road initiative


Belt and Road Initiative -- idea from China but belongs to whole world

The Belt and Road (yidaiyilu) Initiative has become the most popular public goods and platform for international cooperation with the brightest prospects in the world amid rising protectionism and unilateralism, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on the sideline of the recently concluded China's two sessions.

Proposed in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the initiative has witnessed continuous expansion of its "friend circle", and yield tangible benefits for countries along its routes.

It will provide unprecedented opportunities for the economic and social development of countries involved, as "it is the way leading to the community of shared future for mankind," said Gerrishon K. Ikiara, a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

related: China's official Belt and Road portal goes online

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Just what is this One Belt, One Road thing anyway?

Spanning more than 68 countries and encompassing 4.4 billion people and up to 40% of the global GDP, China's One Belt, One Road project is not short on ambition.

Its boosters tout its massive economic promise and claim it could benefit the entire world and lift millions out of poverty.

But no one can say for sure what exactly the plan encompasses, and detractors warn it could be an expensive boondoggle at best or a massive expansion of Chinese imperial power at worst.

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The "One Belt, One Road" 一带一路 initiative

China's "one belt and one road" initiative could usher in a new era that sees China as the undisputed geopolitical powerhouse in the region, experts say.


The initiative will establish new routes linking Asia, Europe and Africa. It has two parts — a new "Silk Road economic belt" linking China to Europe that cuts through mountainous regions in Central Asia; and the "maritime Silk Road" that links China's port facilities with the African coast and than pushes up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed during a speech at the Boao Forum on March 28 in Hainan, China, that China intends to push forward on the initiative that many are comparing to the ancient Silk Road.
"The idea of one belt and one road is based mainly on the economy, but has political and strategic components and implications," said Zhuang Jianzhong, vice director of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Center for National Strategy Studies. "It aims for the joint development, common prosperity and for energy security, too."
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Embracing, Leaning & Tilting towards China
FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2015 file photo, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, talks with China's President Xi Jinping as they arrive for a family photo with other leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, Philippines. Following Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent visit to China, Malaysia's prime minister is the latest leader of a state that claims territory in the South China Sea to travel to Beijing. Najib arrives in the Chinese capital on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 for a six-day visit to the country whose claims to virtually the entire strategic waterbody overlaps with areas that Malaysia says belong to it. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)  (The Associated Press)

Following Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's recent visit to China, Malaysia's prime minister is the latest leader of a nation that claims territory in the South China Sea to travel to Beijing.

Najib Razak arrives in the Chinese capital on Tuesday for a six-day visit to the country whose claims to virtually the entire strategic waterbody overlaps with areas that Malaysia says belong to it.

Malaysia claims a swath of the South China Sea north of Borneo, along with islands and reefs, but has been relatively understated amid feuding among fellow claimants China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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Singapore Stumbles on China's Road
China Frictions May See Singapore Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions

Despite strong historical and cultural ties to China, the tiny state of Singapore has found itself in Beijing’s crosshairs, in part for its stance over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As other Southeast Asian leaders lined up to meet President Xi Jinping at a summit in Beijing this week for his Belt-and-Road Initiative, Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan because unlike other countries that announced their leaders would attend without requiring a formal invitation, Singapore sought an invite, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information.
“The cooler political relationship between Singapore and China could have ripple effects which influence economic and trade relations,” said Lu Jianren, a researcher at the China-Asean Research Institute at China’s Guangxi University. “Singapore has been less proactive to work with China while many leaders in the region showed greater enthusiasm that they want Beijing to be more involved in Southeast Asian growth.”
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. “I wouldn’t say we have major problems; we’ve had some issues and some incidents,” Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said of China, in an interview aired by the BBC in March.


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related:
The Belt And Road Initiative: A new way forward
The New Silk Road 新絲綢之路
Singapore And The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Embracing, Leaning & Tilting towards China

Singapore as a 21st century maritime silk road
The "One Belt, One Road" 一带一路 initiative
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
Singapore - China Bilateral Ties
The Little Red Dot and the Red Dragon
Singapore China G-to-G Projects