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East Asian Institute examines China in transition

01 November 2012

Mr Tharman delivering the keynote address at the East Asian Institute's public forum held in commemoration of the Institute's 15th anniversary

(From left) EAI Director Professor Zheng Yongnian chairing the conference on "China's New Leadership and the World", which featured Professor Lawrence J Lau (Chairman, CIC International (Hong Kong) Co. Ltd.), Ambassador Wu Jianmin (Executive Vice Chairman, China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy) and Professor Lowell Dittmer (Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley) as panel speakers

The East Asian Institute (EAI), an autonomous research institute within NUS for the study and understanding of contemporary China and its neighbours, marked its 15th anniversary this year, which coincided with China's transition to a new leadership. The Chinese Communist Party Congress is taking place on 8 November when a younger top leadership will formally take over the reins of power.

At a public forum organised by the Institute on 24 October, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivered the keynote speech which looked at the challenges facing the most populous country in the world. He observed that key among them are domestic economic transformation and China's changing role on the global stage.

From a traditionally capital accumulation model, the country is moving towards one that emphasises capital efficiency and consumption as growth drivers. As low labour cost is no longer a trump card for China's economic expansion, it has to increasingly focus on efficiency and quality.

On the evolving role of the world's second biggest economy, Mr Tharman believed it will become a major market in future, greatly impacting producers and the rest of the world.

He was confident that China will be able to address these issues with fortitude and tap on its cultural values to provide the resources to move ahead.

Following the forum, EAI also hosted an international conference titled "China's 18th Party Congress: New Leaders, New Direction". The two-day event featured panels of distinguished scholars examining China's new leadership line-up and its new policy direction. Topics discussed included top leadership transition and its implications for the Party and governance; sustainable economic growth that is socially more inclusive and environment-friendly; coping with rapid social changes and urbanisation, and the government's new policy for "social management"; and regional and international challenges from a rising China.

Professor Wang Gungwu, Chairman of EAI, shared his views about China's development path. He pointed out that the country needs to go beyond its domestic focus, forming relationships with not only the big powers, but also other regions to play a more global part.