“Business China widens its reach to help young Singaporeans keen to work or study in China” (Getting Youth To Be China-Savvy, Mr. Leong Weng Kam).
“Singaporean and Chinese officials do not see eye to eye on such things as work priorities and timing” (Rumblings In Tianjin Eco-City, Miss Grace Ng).
Last Sunday (December 27, 2009), I read with great interest the two parallel columns – “Getting Youth To Be China-Savvy” by Mr. Leong and “Rumblings In Tianjian Eco-City” by Miss Ng – discussing Singapore’s business and academic interests in China, as well as the corresponding efforts and ramifications.
To state that China is a land of potential and opportunities needs no further explanation. Throughout the decade Singapore has been fastidious in her partnership with the Asian juggernaut, thereby enhancing economic and socio-political cooperation. Naturally, the efforts by Business China is a well-intentioned one; and the movement can be considered as an extension of existing measures and programmes to equip individuals with appropriate knowledge and skills. The years of experience accumulated by the speakers and directors would provide substantial fodder for students and young entrepreneurs who desire to make their mark in China.
Nevertheless, as the Tianjin project has reflected, differences are bound to occur – in terms of working styles, cultural comprehension, aims and objectives et cetera – hence students and workers alike should be cognisant of these aspects instead of having the mentality that endeavours would be a bed of roses. In terms of technical know-how, the information asymmetry that Singaporeans used to enjoy – as highlighted in Miss Ng’s article – has been undercut by the forces of globalisation and expertise. The Chinese, like what the Japanese did in the 1960 to 1980 decades of massive industrialisation, have been exposed to a multitude of technologies and experiences. Even in terms of cultural and relative geographical proximity; these advantages have been substantially reduced by global efforts to move closer to China. The message is clear: Singapore can no longer rest on her laurels.
No amount of technical, academic or cultural enhancement would replace the merits of experience. To a certain extent, liberty must be given to youths for them to explore and fail whenever necessary; not just in China but throughout their entire lives. There will come a point when the equilibrium between knowledge and experience would eventually be finely struck.
Mistakes will inevitably be made, and lessons would have to be learnt. Success is rarely offered on a silver platter, and it takes more than knowledge per se – tenacity, perseverance, experience – to make it big in China and around the world.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.