Since its inception in 1980, homegrown massage chair specialist OSIM International has striven to gain and maintain its foothold as one of the world’s leading wellness brands. China, with its vast market, is an important piece of the puzzle. OSIM’s presence in China for 28 years is not without its travails, but through constant innovation and a willingness to adapt to change, it continues to find a way to thrive amid the competition. CEO Charlie Teo shares the OSIM experience.
With the arrival of a swanky new Chinese bookshop/gallery/cafe in the heart of town, Teo Han Wue recalls that such integrated spaces are hardly new in Singapore’s history. Several Chinese bookshops in the past held art exhibitions within their premises and were often the stomping ground of artists and the arterati. What were these art salons of days gone by like?
In January 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited several ASEAN countries, including Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, in an effort to push for collaboration in key projects under the BRI, and providing access to Chinese vaccines. However, Beijing’s passage of a new coastguard law has undermined Wang Yi’s outreach efforts. ISEAS academic Lye Liang Fook explains what is behind China's efforts and looks into its implications.
In December 2020, family and friends of Shanghai Book Co Ltd produced a commemorative book of the now-defunct bookstore. Founded in 1925, Shanghai Book Co Ltd played a pivotal role in shaping the consciousness of Chinese-speaking Singaporeans in the 1950s. It was a meeting point of ideas and voices, not only from greater China, but within Southeast Asia. In fact, it had helped to nurture the budding interest of Chinese-speaking young students in Malay language and culture. Teo Han Wue recounts how this bookshop in North Bridge Road, easily stereotyped as Chinese-centric, became instead an emblem of openness and cultural diversity.
After taking a hit in early 2020 due to the pandemic, Singapore-China trade quickly rebounded and looks set to be in healthy territory in 2021. China’s increasing focus on regional trade agreements and industrial chains will give an added push. Academics Li Wenlong and Zhang Shiming give their take on what is in store.
The idea of the Kra Canal, prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries, resurfaced in the late 1990s as the Khlong Thai or “Thai Canal” idea. However, the high investment costs, massive and unpredictable adverse environmental impacts, and security implications have all weighed against its realisation. A mega project proposal that envisions building a “Land Bridge” between Chumphon Province on the Gulf of Thailand and an enlarged deep-sea port in Ranong Province on the Andaman Sea has now been touted, supported by the Prayut administration. Academic Termsak Chalermpalanupap examines the options.
Chinese cuisine is far from the sweet and sour pork or fortune cookies found in the Chinatowns of the West. From the familiar flavours of Cantonese cuisine to the spicy notes in Sichuan fare and the clean flavours of Jiangsu cuisine, every taste has a place in the rich tapestry of China’s food heritage. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao traces how the Chinese and their food — complete with an entire culture — travelled in history beyond Asia into the wider world.
Law experts Tan Chong Huat and Amanda Chen observe that the recent halting of Ant Group’s dual listing on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges augur more regulatory changes in the micro-loans industry. While this lowers financial stability risk, will more of such regulations hinder fintech advancements? Where’s the middle ground? In their opinion, there is much that Singapore and China can learn from each other in the regulation of emerging technologies.
ISEAS academics Malcolm Cook and Ian Storey note that Southeast Asia would welcome a Biden administration policy towards Asia that is less confrontational and unilateralist, and firmer and more action-oriented. The region's governments prefer the new US administration to adopt a less confrontational stance towards China and lower US-China tensions. But while they welcome increased US economic and security engagement with the region, they are less enthusiastic about Biden’s emphasis on human rights and democracy.