Address by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at Puxian (Singapore) Entrepreneurs Network Inauguration Ceremony, 28 February 2021

Mr Fong Chi Chung, President of the Puxian (Singapore) Entrepreneurs Network

 

Dr Wu Wei, Executive President of the Puxian (Singapore) Entrepreneurs Network

 

His Excellency Hong Xiaoyong, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Singapore

 

Distinguished Guests

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

1                          各位来宾,大家晚上好!祝各位在新的一年里,吉祥如意。

 

2                          I am delighted to join you this evening. The Henghuashave a long and illustrious history in Singapore. They first arrived in Singapore in the late 1870s. When the Henghua first came to Singapore, like the other dialect groups, we had our own trade specialisation. My great grandparents and my grandfather in fact had a shop in Dhoby Gaut selling automotive spare parts. Even if you speak to the old Henghua families in Singapore, it was usually the transportation trade. Rickshaws pullers, taxi drivers, mechanics. That was the story even of my own family. This kind of work, to be honest with all of you, was not glamourous of work. But the Henghua community sank roots into Singapore, worked hard, looked after our families, looked out for each another – especially for new arrivals. Together with the other races and communities, we helped to build modern Singapore.

 

3                          We became an integral part of Singapore’s unique multiracial and multicultural identity. As Singapore’s economy modernised, our community, through hard work and grit, seized the opportunities Singapore presented. Over the years, succeeding generations moved into education, medicine, banking and finance, oil and gas, real estate, construction, and trading. Our community kept pace with Singapore’s modernisation, and we have also found success together with other communities in Singapore.

 

4                          I spend some time on history, because it matters to us personally, but also because I hope that this example of the contributions of the early Henghuas to Singapore will inspire the Puxian Entrepreneurs Network today as you widen your networks, deepen commercial ties, and promote people-to-people exchange between Singapore, China, and the wider region – including of course our immediate neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia.

 

5                          This is a fascinating time when you have seen the way China has achieved success, especially in the last forty years with the reform and opening, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty. The old Henghua families will know that the Putian area was actually a very poor area that our ancestors left. The members and officers who comprise the Puxian Entrepreneurs Network – you have extensive experience; you have a good understanding of both China and Singapore. I hope you will foster greater engagement between the business communities in Singapore, China, and Southeast Asia. Mr Fong Chi Chung himself has been a trailblazer. He not only built a widely respected business, but also introduced Henghua cuisine to a new generation of Singaporeans and Southeast Asians.

 

6                          2021 is another milestone year. It represents the 30thanniversary of ASEAN-China dialogue relations. There has been great progress in the ASEAN-China relationship over three decades, and especially last year. Many people may not be aware that ASEAN overtook the European Union to become China’s largest trading partner. We also signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership last year. This will further promote the economy and trade across our region. These are major milestones worth celebrating. It is also worth emphasising that this is only the beginning, because ASEAN will continue to grow, become the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030. There is great potential in this relationship between China and Southeast Asia in decades to come. And if you look also at the digital view, the regional digital economy is expected to grow by more than six times, from 31 billion US dollars in 2015 to 197 billion US dollars in 2025.

 

7                          Singapore has always been a portal into the larger Southeast Asia. We are an attractive platform for regional expansion because of the ease of doing business, the rule of law, a highly capable, honest, reliable multilingual workforce, and first-world digital infrastructure. On top of that, I would also add that in the past year – you think of all that has happened due to COVID-19 – Singapore has shown ourselves be a reliable, credible, and trustworthy partner. Even in the depths of the crisis, we never panicked. We honoured the sanctity of contracts, we preserved and upheld fragile supply chains, we never once impounded goods. Our airport, our sea port, our logistics facilities remained open. People from other parts of the world trying desperately to go home transited through Singapore safely.  This reputation, forged in a crisis, is worth preserving. In fact, it differentiates us and gives us a competitive advantage as we look to a post-COVID world.

 

8                          On China and Singapore – since the Ambassador is here. You will know that at critical moments of the crisis, both China and Singapore supported one another. There are things which may not be public, but both countries know that when a crisis occurred, when there was a critical need, we extended our hand our friendship and our support to one another.

 

9                          I say all this so that you realise that what we have today is a combination of a long history of sacrifices by our ancestors – the harvest of generations of hard work. And also, that we are on the verge of many more opportunities in the decades to come. This is indeed a wonderful time to be alive, a wonderful time to have a network, a wonderful time to have friends. We know that we can rely upon each other.

 

 

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore

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