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China's global triple thrust

Its OBOR push, the AIIB and its FTZs form a holistic initiative to create tighter integration among countries.

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Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City.

SINCE 2013, China under President Xi Jinping's leadership has pushed in earnest on three fronts - the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and free trade zones (FTZs). Now, these visionary plans have achieved several milestones. The 65-country OBOR network today in particular has come to account for 62.3 per cent, 30 per cent and 24 per cent of the world's population, GDP and household consumption respectively. These concerted efforts continue to pave the way for a global China, and reinforce its opening up to international business, trade and cooperation.

In reality, mainstream commentators and opinion leaders have rarely considered these three initiatives together when assessing their impact on China and the world. This is unfortunate.

OBOR, AIIB and the FTZs are three parts of a holistic initiative to create tighter integration among countries through enhanced connectivity - not only in the physical sense of better roads, railways, sea links, and air links - but just as importantly, in terms of building the accompanying software: framework agreements, collaborative institutions, market openings and other aspects.

Understandably, for a project of such scale, to the external observer, it is not easy to grasp the rapid changes spanning across so many territories. But the global picture is undeniably that of enhanced business opportunities.

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Singapore, like the rest of Asean, is one of the 65 OBOR countries and a founding member of the AIIB. Our companies are already deeply and heavily invested in China's FTZs, in Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu to name a few. With the help of International Enterprise Singapore, they have also ventured and achieved varying degrees of market penetration in other OBOR countries. Going forward, Singapore Inc can look to benefit from business opportunities that spring from the increasing synergies between OBOR, the AIIB and the FTZs.

As China pursues its OBOR initiative, it will be imperative for Chinese companies to establish themselves globally in order to focus on growing their business. Those able to provide the right platforms to achieve this will come into favour and great demand.

For instance, the Raffles City Chongqing project developed by Ascendas-Singbridge and located within the city's FTZ will be the most sought after address for financial, logistics and ICT services companies to expand into the Chinese hinterland.

Outside China, the group has also entered into a joint venture agreement with the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to invest and build industrial and business parks across Asia, starting with India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. Such strategic partnerships and alliances mark the beginning of an exciting journey of growth.

As the region begins to uncover its full potential, Singapore will certainly be etched into its growing fabric of success.

  • The writer is CEO, Sustainable Urban Development, Ascendas-Singbridge.
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