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IE Insights
Vol. 1/ Jul 2012

Chinas Twin Paradigm Shifts Beacons in a Sea of Change

As a result of major economic changes and latent societal factors in China, the country will experience two paradigm shifts in its growth pattern. We expect China to move from an investmentled growth model to one thats consumption-led; from a low-end manufacturing-led economy to one led by higher-end manufacturing and services. We see new opportunities for Singapore healthcare, education and environmental services companies.
By David Yeo, Philip Ng
China Group

This report highlights several new approaches for Singapore companies: (i) a high-end healthcare, wellness and tourism hub concept targeting the ageing affluent; (ii) partnering a cluster of reputable education/ training providers to offer a holistic suite of customised services; and (iii) refocusing on seawater desalination. These approaches are demonstrative in nature and can be scaled up and replicated to benefit more Singapore companies keen to penetrate the Chinese market. Chinas economy is facing strong headwinds. Issues like government debts, declining exports to the US, the EU and Japan, and a cooling domestic property market, coupled with emerging trends such as ageing population, industrial restructuring and upgrading, will impact Chinas growth. Policymakers in China are formulating policies to address these potential stumbling blocks. The country is tweaking its tax structure to encourage domestic consumption, opening up previously restricted services sectors such as healthcare and education, and encouraging industries to shift from coastal to inland regions. China is likely to achieve a soft landing this year. Two key drivers support this growth and represent a fundamental paradigm shift in what fuels Chinas development: the rise of domestic consumption and private investment.

The Twin Engines of Growth
Analysing Chinas Growth Investment and Consumption to Drive Growth


Emerging Trends
Opening Up of Services Sector Other Trends


The Next Wave

Healthcare Education Environmental Services



Disclaimer While every effort is made to ensure that the information in this document is accurate, the information is provided by IE Singapore to you without any representation or warranty. Any reliance on the information in this document is at your own risk. IE Singapore does not accept any liability for any errors, omissions or misleading information. IE Singapore and its employees shall not be held responsible for any consequence arising from your reliance on any information provided by us. You are advised to consult your own professional advisors.

The Twin Engines of Growth

China did relatively well in 2011, with its economy trumping general consensus with a 9.2% growth. However, there are weaknesses in Chinas economy, including declining exports and moderate government spending. To combat this, Chinas central government plans to boost consumption and investment, the twin forces that we expect will drive Chinas growth to beyond 8% this year.

Analysing Chinas Growth

A Soft Landing for China We believe China will achieve a soft landing this year, with a GDP growth of more than 8%. This is higher than Chinas own mid-term GDP growth target of 7% in its 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP, 20112015), and will likely be achieved through the twin pillars of consumption and investment. In our view, a hard landing is characterised by anything below 6%. This year, Chinas economy is set to slow down, to allow room for other economic priorities like industrial restructuring and upgrading. Its GDP growth eased to a near three-year low of 8.1% in the first quarter this year. In a speech to the National Peoples Congress in March, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao set the growth target for 2012 at 7.5%, a marked change from the past seven years1. However, China has always outperformed its official GDP targets.

1 Chinas GDP was benchmarked at 8% from 2005 - 2011

The Twin Engines of Growth

Setting a floor for growth, instead of a target
Chinas GDP growth (%) 15
12.7 11.3 10.0 9.1 10.1 9.6 9.2 14.2


10.5 9.2

8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 7.5



Actual Targeted
Source: CEIC, National Bureau of Statistics

0 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

As experts like Wang Tao, Chief Economist at UBS, said, Beijings expectations are not so much targets as they are setting a floor for growth. Beijing will also have to achieve its own target. When Chinas industrial output expanded at its slowest annual pace in April (+9.3%) in nearly three years, and other leading economic indicators also did not perform up to mark in the first half of this year, Premier Wen immediately spoke in May (more than once!) about his concerns over too great and too abrupt a slowdown, a clear indication that Beijing will push for more proactive policies to make growth a bigger priority. Slow down but not too slow, a delicate balance for Beijing indeed. Shrinking Manufacturing Industry The slowing down of the G3 countries will affect Chinas net exports, which primarily comprise manufactured products. In 2007, exports as a percentage of GDP was 35%, but this fell to 25% in 2011, signalling a departure from an economy that was traditionally manufacturing-led. The impact of shrinking exports should not be overstated: net exports in 2011 only registered a drop of 0.5 percentage points from Chinas GDP growth rate the same year. The most significant ramification of a contracting exports sector is unemployment. If this rises to unacceptable levels, it could lead to social unrest and instability.

The Twin Engines of Growth

Cooling Real Estate Market After a series of austerity administrative measures, Chinas real estate market is cooling. The market links to more than 200 other industries, all of which will be affected, yet this is not expected to derail the Chinese economy.
Real estate market in China is cooling
Real Estate Climate Index (Year 2000 = 100) 102 101 100 99 98 97 96 95 94 93
Source: CEIC, National Bureau of Statistics

101.12 100.41 100.27 99.87 98.89 98.89 97.89 96.92 95.62 94.90

92 Aug-11 Sep-11 Oct-11 Nov-11 Dec-11 Jan-12 Feb-12 Mar-12 Apr-12 May-12

China is undergoing massive urbanisation. This translates into huge demand for houses at almost every price point. With inflation easing in recent months, we foresee policymakers stimulating growth by implementing downward adjustments in the reserve requirement ratio (about 20% now) and interest rate (about 8% now) this year. These adjustments will render the banking system more liquid, enabling a greater relaxation on lending and an increase of capital available, which some of which will be invested into the property market.

The Twin Engines of Growth

Managing Debt China has incurred a severe 10.7 trillion yuan (S$2.14 trillion) local debt, but this will unlikely capsize its economy. This is because 80% of the debt was funnelled into infrastructural projects ports, rails, airports, bridges and roads that will yield recurring income in years to come. Furthermore, even if the debts of both the local and central governments are combined, they clock in at only 34% of Chinas GDP. This is a far cry from Japans 220% and the USs 94%2. Chinas debt-to-GDP ratio is also acceptable, according to one of the Euro convergence criteria, which mandates a ratio below 60%. We believe China can further alleviate this by developing local bond markets to convert these debts into tradable bonds. Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces are already piloting this concept with some success. Bright Outlook Meanwhile, sentiments on the ground in China remain buoyant. Nearly 80% of the CEOs of leading privately-owned companies in China are cautiously optimistic on business prospects in 2012. Over 100 private entrepreneurs surveyed felt that China will improve its development model and implement reforms to ensure steady and healthy growth3.

2 A Historical Public Debt Database, IMF, 2010 3 Coping with the Global Economic Slowdown: A survey of Chinas leading entrepreneurs, Ernst & Young, 2012

The Twin Engines of Growth

Investment and Consumption to Drive Growth
Boosting Investment To achieve 7.5% growth, China has plans to spur consumption and investment. In April this year, the China Securities Regulatory Commission raised the qualified foreign institutional investors investment quota to US$80 billion, an increase of 166%, the largest increase since 2002. This will allow more foreign capital to flow into China, which will in turn encourage investment and benefit companies in China facing onshore fund-raising problems. With effect from 30 January 2012, China will also encourage more domestic and foreign private investments into energy-saving and environmentally-friendly technologies, new-generation information technology, biotechnology, high-end equipment manufacturing, alternative energy, advanced materials and alternative fuel cars. We see Singapore companies in the environmental, IT, med-tech and precision engineering sectors benefiting from this. Boosting Consumption Chinas high savings rate of close to 50% exemplifies the countrys potential to stimulate consumption. The existing pattern of overinvestment and under-consumption a result of Chinas ongoing development strategy of grow first, distribute later is unsustainable as Chinas consumption level is too low. At 40%, it is particularly stark when compared to the USs 70% and even Indias 56%4. This year, China plans to roll out measures to promote tourism and online shopping, as well as policies to encourage spending on energy-saving products, according to a statement by Commerce Minister Chen Deming. In addition, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) recently issued a joint statement that illustrates Chinas plans to increase consumption. A rise in domestic consumption will indirectly raise the standard of living of the lower-income group and reduce income disparity. This is especially important given the experience from the massive 4 trillion yuan stimulus package after the 2008/ 2009 crisis.

4 China Eases into a New Era of Slower Growth, Prof John Wong, NUS East Asian Institute for The Stratits Times, 4 April 2012

Emerging Trends
Alongside the emphasis on consumption, China will experience many emerging trends that will see its industries move from being manufacturing-led to services-led. We believe the most crucial of these trends to be the opening up of Chinas services sector. We have also identified strategies that Singapore services companies can take to capitalise on these trends.

Opening Up of Services Sector

From Factory of the World to Services After entering the WTO in 2001, China opened up its trade regime. The success of this economic liberalisation resulted in China earning its position as the Factory of the World, manufacturing products for global consumption. China is entering its next phase of growth and while manufacturing, with emphasis on high-end manufacturing, will still be needed, the Chinese economy will shift from being manufacturing-led to services-led. Although some segments of the services sector in China are currently protected, they will gradually be liberalised, and Singapore companies should prepare for this. Singapore is strong in the services sector. We will continue to facilitate Singapore services companies in the healthcare, education, finance, media and aviation segments to acquire the right technologies, know-how and market access. We also advise Singapore companies to take part in Chinas key services trade fairs such as the China (Beijing) International Fair on Trade in Services to raise the profile and awareness of their service offerings to China.

Emerging Trends
Silver Tsunami and Healthcare Chinas population is expected to peak between 2015 to 2018. Its population dividend, which has long provided a constant supply of labour, will cease in the mid- to long-term. The root causes of Chinas ageing population are similar to all other developed countries: a low fertility rate (Chinas total fertility rate in 2011 was 1.54, well below the 2.1 replacement threshold), rising life expectancy and the nations one-child policy. Chinas working age population (1564 years old) is estimated to decline to 60%5 of its total population in 2035 it peaked in 2010 at 73%. This will pose serious development constraints as it places the economic burden on the minority working age population. According to the China Population and Development Research Centre, nearly one out of every four persons in the country will be older than 65 years old by the year 2050. This equates to 350 million out of Chinas estimated population of 1.45 billion.
An ageing population
Population above 65 years old (millions) 400

350 300 250 200 150 100 50

Source: CEIC, National Bureau of Statistics

93.77 96.92

118.94 109.56 113.07 98.57 100.55 104.19 106.36 122.88

0 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2050

5 China and India, The Asian Giants Are Heading Down Different Demographic Paths, RAND Corporation, 2011

Emerging Trends
Because of Chinas ageing population, healthcare reform is a major theme in its 12th FYP. Improving healthcare standards and coverage serves as a social safety net, paving the way for social stability and equality.
Rising healthcare standards
Expenditure on public healthcare (billion yuan) 2,500
2,250 20,291 20,918 19,852 19,712 19,246 21,979 18,393 18,703 17,764 1,998 17,844 1,454 1,754

No. of hospitals 25,000





1,000 No. of hospitals Expenditure on public healthcare

Source: CEIC, Ministry of Health

1,157 759 866 984






0 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

The challenges China faces with its greying population are long term which will translate into opportunities for Singapore companies in the highly regulated healthcare sector. Although we are not optimistic of an early or quick deregulation, there has been obvious progress. For example, a foreign entity can now own 100% of a hospital, up from 70% previously. However, conditions apply and at the moment, priority is given to investments from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Some Singapore players have already made headway: Healthway Medical, China Healthcare and Q&M started small in China and have gradually built up their reputation and gained mindshare among the Chinese consumers. They are likely to be on firmer ground to tap into the new opportunities that will come about with further liberalisation of the healthcare segment.


Emerging Trends
Other Trends
Online Economy The rapidly expanding online economy is another trend that is increasingly relevant to Singapore companies. There are over 500 million internet users in China at the end of 2011, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. This is equivalent to the entire EU population. The market value of Chinas internet industry grew to 260 billion yuan in 2011 and the figure is projected to grow beyond 1 trillion yuan by 2015, according to a report by internet consultancy iResearch Inc. Chinas internet economy either B2B or B2C is certain to grow, and companies with interests in China should devise an online strategy if they do not already have one. Most of our reputable and sizeable retail players in China, such as Osim and Charles & Keith, have already established their online presence. This allows them to expand beyond the perimeters of their physical shops in main cities to include the second- and third-tier cities with strong demand. We are working with Singapore companies to identify business opportunities along the whole value chain of the online business, from front-end platforms like web portals to back-end functions like logistics and e-fulfilment. Rising Business Costs In recent years, China has seen a nationwide trend of rising minimum wages, with some cities and provinces raising them multiple times. This is in line with the central governments policy of maintaining social harmony, raising disposable income, reducing poverty and income disparity, and incentivising consumption. On top of that, foreigners working in China are now required to contribute to Chinas social welfare system, adding further cost pressure on companies. Other than labour cost, land, water, fuel, electricity and raw materials in China are getting pricier, raising overall business costs. To stay competitive in China, we recommend that Singapore companies differentiate themselves from the pack. The low-cost model is no longer an attractive option for Singapore companies; they will need to innovate and upgrade their businesses, or be put to the sword. For example, escalating business costs will open doors for companies in the area of automation solutions. Korvis is one such company that has leveraged this trend to expand its operations in China.


Emerging Trends
New Opportunities After Premier Wen announced Chinas GDP growth target for 2012 to be 7.5% instead of the customary 8%, we believe economic restructuring and upgrading will be an important focus. Cities and provinces will now concentrate less on large-scale infrastructure projects that boost GDP growth. Instead, they will focus more on inclusive growth strategies, such as welfare projects like healthcare or green projects. This can begin the process of economic transformation. Through economic restructuring, cities can upgrade to higher value-add industries that would generate more sustainable growth. We expect this to benefit Singapore companies in high value-added sectors. A good example is the collaboration between ST Kinetics and leading international and China-based stakeholders in the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The Eco-City New Energy Vehicle Alliance is expected to develop a suite of green transportation solutions for a sustainable Tianjin Eco-City. Besides this, ST Kinetics is working on another EV project in Guangzhou Knowledge City and continuing to look for business opportunities in the area of high value purpose-built construction equipment.


The Next Wave

While Singapore companies in China can still find openings in services segments like urban solutions and logistics, we believe the most promising segments are those that were once restricted to foreigners. These include healthcare, education, media, finance and aviation. This section will highlight the former two and the environmental services segment, which Singapore companies have a head start in.

The slow liberalisation of Chinas healthcare segment as mentioned previously is not the only issue for Singapore companies; it is also not easily scalable. For a foreign player to set up an additional new clinic or hospital, it first needs to go through a tedious and costly process: the company will have to enter into a joint venture (JV) with a Chinese partner, obtain a new set of licences, and inject a fresh investment of at least 20 million yuan (S$4 million). Despite these challenges, we believe that the healthcare segment is still an attractive market in the mid- to long-term due to Chinas rising affluence and domestic demand. Other than promoting exports of Singapores healthcare services, we are exploring an integrated healthcare, wellness and tourism hub concept that targets the ageing and affluent who are scouting for more options.


The Next Wave

On the policy front, we will keep seeking greater access for Singapore healthcare players in China through discussions with Chinese authorities and through our various platform6 and demonstrative projects. Projects that contribute to social development in particular can establish rapport with the local governments and eventually gain their support. We are also exploring different models of entry like working with international organisations. Ultimately, we believe it is more propitious to enter the healthcare market now than compared with five years ago.

Education and training have always been a key area of collaboration between Singapore and China, and we intend to make this collaboration more structured. China, in response to rapid urbanisation, is preparing to unveil its largest package yet for educational reform. In addition to funding and supporting Vocational and Technical Education (VTE), we foresee the package to give more leeway for private sector participation. Beyond VTE, there is a demand for renowned Singapore-branded courses in China as not all Chinese can travel abroad for training due to scheduling and cost reasons. To tap into the increase in demand for in-market training and to enhance bilateral collaboration, we are exploring clustering reputable Singaporean education and training providers to offer a holistic suite of customised services to the Chinese.
More and more students
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Sichuan Guangdong
Source: CEIC, Ministry of Education

316,701 412,357

381,926 467,807 587,779 726,866 874,686 1,008,577 1,119,655 1,216,390 1,426,624 1,334,089

512,663 637,340 775,436

860,640 918,438 991,072 1,035,934 1,086,215

2010 0 500,000




2,500,000 No. of students

6 IE Singapore is currently working on four platform projects in China, namely Tianjin Eco-city, Guangzhou Knowledge City, Nanjing Eco High-Tech Island and Sichuan Hi-Tech Innovation Park.


The Next Wave

Environmental Services
We expect the market potential for environmental services to expand as rapidly as Chinas urbanisation and economic growth rate. Sustainable growth is a vital concern for the Chinese central government and hence its focus on resource conservation and environmental protection. The 12th FYP also highlighted priority strategic emerging industries for industrial innovation and development, which includes energy efficiency technologies, recycling and waste management, advanced nuclear energy, wind and solar energy, smart grids and biomass, as well as hybrid and pure electric vehicles. China is looking to import advanced products and services to support their resource conservation and environmental protection efforts. Singapore environmental services companies are well versed in this, and can provide system integration and operation, as well as management services. Within the broad spectrum of environmental services, Singapore companies are most established in water and waste management solutions. This will match up to the huge Chinese demand, from both the government as well as state-owned enterprises, for reliable municipal and industrial waste and water treatment. We recommend Singapore companies to continue seizing opportunities in greenfield projects and participate in the nationwide trend of upgrading existing systems.


The Next Wave

Most of the waste water in China cannot meet discharge standards
Billions tons 70 60
52.50 53.70 55.69 57.17 58.91


50 40 30 20 Waste water discharge Waste water discharge that meets discharge standard
Source: CEIC, Ministry of Environmental Protection





20 10 0





















Moreover, Chinas water scarcity problem is increasingly pressing. Desalination is gradually being accepted as Chinas next available alternative for clean water. It is poised to be a new growth sector according to the 12th FYP, which aims to triple Chinas desalination target from 640,000 m3 per day to 2.22.6 million m3 per day. As desalination is an industry new to China, Singapore can be the preferred partner for viable solutions. Besides the central government, local governments of water-scarce cities in Liaoning and Shandong have also displayed keen interest in collaborating with Singapore companies in demonstrative integrated water projects.


As the worlds second largest economy and an important investment destination, China is at the centre of attention on the world stage. Many countries, including Singapore, are interested in Chinas economic policies and the nascent trends to seek business opportunities. There may be plenty of opportunities, but Singapore companies still face several challenges when entering the Chinese market: identifying the suitable points of entry, leveraging the right platforms and engaging a reliable partner wherever applicable.

To aid Singapore companies, we identified two paradigm shifts of Chinas economy that our companies can capitalise on. First, we anticipate that China will begin to emphasise consumption rather than investment. In fact, for the first time in a decade, domestic consumption in China will surpass investment as the biggest driver of economic growth this year, according to the China Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a MOFCOM think tank. Second, we believe China will gradually place more emphasis on services as its next engine of growth. This is especially crucial for Singapore companies. Currently, the services sector in China is protected, but the Chinese government is gradually opening it up. IE Singapore will remain vigilant in monitoring the policies and trends in China to better advise Singapore companies keen on entering the market. We will assist Singapore companies to make informed decisions about entry modes and business strategies to ensure they secure first-mover advantage as more segments of the services sector are liberalised. The Chinese puzzle is a tough one to solve, but with the country possessing bountiful opportunities, the rewards for Singapore companies are significant indeed.


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International Enterprise (IE) Singapore is the government agency driving Singapores external economy. We spearhead the overseas growth of Singapore-based companies and promote international trade. Our vision is a thriving business hub in Singapore with Globally Competitive Companies (GCCs) and leading international traders. Trade has always been the backbone of Singapores economy. In addition to promoting export of goods and services, IE Singapore also attracts global commodities traders to establish their global or Asian home base in Singapore. Today, Singapore is a thriving trading hub with a complete ecosystem for the energy, agri-commodities and metals & minerals trading clusters. GCCs are a critical growth engine for the next phase of Singapores development. GCCs compete on the global stage against the very best in their industries. They contribute to Singapores economic resilience, develop Singaporeans into global business leaders and strengthen the Singapore brand. Through our Global Company Partnership, we work with Singapore-based companies in their various stages of growth towards being globally competitive. We customise total solutions in capability building, market access and financing for these companies as they internationalise. Our global network of overseas centres in over 35 locations provides the necessary connections in many developed and emerging markets. In China, we are present in nine locations, namely Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Shanghai, Wuhan, Xian. Visit for more information.

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