The World Economic Forum is happening right now in Davos, Switzerland, with many leaders, economists and academics attending the annual forum.
Singapore too, has a delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing.
During a panel discussion on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Minister Chan spelt out how Singapore can play a critical role providing banking and legal support for projects.
But what was notable in the panel discussion was how he urged China to use its power and position to build a global system that is inclusive and benefits societies around the world, in the longer term.
“With China’s growth, there is tremendous opportunity for China to do good for the rest of the world,” – Minister Chan Chun Sing
In fact, he pointed to a Chinese idiom “以德服人” (yi de fu ren) which was used by Chinese President Xi Jinping in a speech in Davos last year, to urge China to help the world to build a better system that allows the world to participate in the next phase of growth for the world economy. The phrase means using one’s abilities in a benevolent way to benefit a community.
The fact that he urged China to look beyond just the immediate and mid-term commercial gains to its own economy, but more importantly, over the longer term, to help the world, to win the trust and confidence of the world, showed something – that he is confident enough to subtly remind his larger counterparts of the need for the BRI to be a “contribution to building an inclusive global order that benefits the world in the long run”, despite being a younger, two-term cabinet minister.
An interesting thing to note is that while other panelists took and spoke with notes, Chan did not, and still made sense.
He gave the analogy of how the BRI is like a brick-layer: “Is he laying a brick? Or is he building a wall? Or is he building a cathedral?”
“And I think the Chinese leadership have the wisdom to know which level of aspirations they are going for.”