It appears that several Chinese Tech Giants are now turning their sights to Singapore, following domestic pressure back home by the Chinese Government.
“What domestic pressure?” you may wonder.
Lest you’re unaware, the Chinese Government has not exactly been kind to massive companies with unthinkable reach. Apart from the implementation of heavy fines, regulators have even threatened to “slice up” whole companies.
Heck, even Jack Ma, a man who frequently seems larger than life, was forced to ‘retreat’ after making an especially daring speech against the Government.
It’s clear that the Chinese Government has a certain policy, and that they would not allow upcoming entities to threaten it.
Chinese Tech Giants Looking to Expand & Hire in SE Asia & S’pore Amidst Domestic Pressure
And now, it seems that these Chinese Tech giants are moving course for the Southeast Asian market, in a bid to procure a “plan B” if things genuinely go south.
According to TODAYonline, ByteDance recently shifted into larger offices in the financial district, and has kickstarted a hiring initiative.
In fact, between September and February, a whopping third of the company’s job postings were based here in Singapore.
That’s more than twice the number over in China.
Meanwhile, Alibaba had purchased a 50 per cent stake in an office tower in 2020. It should be noted that Lazada, an e-commerce unit of Alibaba, is currently the main tenant in the building.
Also, fintech giant Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, is set to run a wholesale digital bank in the city-state.
According to Mr Ajay Thalluri, an analyst with data and analytics firm GlobalData, Alibaba is looking to establish a solid set-up here, with talented, multi-oriented teams.
Alibaba “is building teams in Singapore with significant key senior and mid-level job postings related to talent acquisition, product management, and legal compliance”, he said.
ByteDance and Tencent, too, are elevating their presence here in Singapore in the event that global and Chinese operations would have to part ways one day.
In that case, Singapore could potentially become their international hub.
Why Singapore Though?
To put it simply, it would be because Singapore maintains good ties with both China and the West. Or as Dr Chen Guoli, professor of strategy at the Singapore campus of business school INSEAD expresses: “Singapore is considered as a more neutral country”.
As for other countries, ongoing tensions may have rendered potential collaborations undesirable, or even impossible.
Over in India, for instance, a number of Chinese apps have been prohibited after a border clash in 2020.
The European Union and other Western powers have also “imposed sanctions over China’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority”, which has, in turn, led to a retaliatory attempt.
Washington and Beijing are also not exactly on good terms.
“Chinese tech companies are facing regulatory pressures and sanctions from governments in other countries, notably the US but also other nations such as India,” Mr Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit, said.
Besides, Singapore is, itself, welcome to the move.
After all, such an integration would mean an influx of Chinese cash for the local economy.
Additionally, Singapore is technically building itself up as a tech centre, having already played host to major offices of US tech titans Facebook, Google and Twitter.
But There May Be Concerns
Despite the intense hiring drives, the fact remains that Singapore boasts a population of just 5.7 million.
Skillsets are, understandably, rather limited.
As such, Singapore is said to be on the lookout for more foreign talent – a notion that would certainly displease the majority of the Singaporean population.
This is possibly due to a potential decrease in employment opportunities for local graduates, at a time when schools are prepping the younger generation for tech-based jobs.
Nevertheless, “there still remains an urgent need to fill these skills gaps now”, Mr Sall said.
Whether the urgency of the situation trumps the interests of the public, however, is another question altogether.
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