Shanghai eyes Singapore as it chases foreign investments amid slowing economy

SINGAPORE – Shanghai officials have Singapore in their sights as China’s financial capital seeks more foreign investments amid a broader economic slowdown in the country, and as the city’s own economy underperforms.

The officials mounted an investment promotion event here on Jan 29, touting Shanghai as an attractive destination to an audience of over 140 people, including representatives from Singapore businesses and professional bodies.

Among Shanghai’s selling points are its affluent consumers, its connectivity and a slew of urban renewal projects that present opportunities for developers and potential tenants alike, said the city’s officials.

And there continue to be efforts to improve Shanghai’s investment environment and infrastructure, and to open it up more to promote reform and growth, said Madam Zhu Yi, deputy director-general of the city’s commerce commission.

The investment promotion event, held at the Hilton Singapore Orchard hotel, was organised by the Shanghai Commerce Commission and the Pudong New Area government, co-organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), and supported by Enterprise Singapore.

The Chinese city has also made similar pitches in Hong Kong, London and Sao Paulo.

The event came as Shanghai failed to meet its economic growth target in 2023 – the second consecutive year that it fell short on this count. The city’s mayor said at a municipal parliamentary session last week that Shanghai’s gross domestic product grew 5 per cent in 2023, missing its target of 5.5 per cent. 

Part of the financial hub’s sales pitch was for Singapore entities to invest in urban renewal projects across the city, designed to inject fresh life into otherwise dated locales.

One such project is the revitalisation of a historic residential complex with Shanghai-style lane houses – known as Zhang Garden – in the city’s commercial district. It is home to a range of luxury brands, and will also feature boutique hotels, apartments and creative office spaces when completed, officials said as they called for interested fashion and lifestyle brands to set up shop there.

Singapore companies can also benefit from Shanghai’s recent designation as a pilot zone for “Silk Road e-commerce cooperation”, officials said.

Companies can participate in dialogues and business-matching activities for small and medium-sized enterprises, get involved in planned joint research institutes and learn from best practices in the industry, they added.

Singapore is one of the most important sources of foreign investment for Shanghai, said Madam Zhu.

Over 4,000 Singapore companies have had a presence in the Chinese city – in the last three years alone, Shanghai saw over 890 newly-established companies from the Republic, with investments totalling more than US$6 billion (S$8 billion), she added.

Meanwhile, there were over 400 Shanghai companies in Singapore as at end-2022, with a total investment of over US$7 billion, according to figures from Enterprise Singapore.

Under the Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council, Enterprise Singapore and the Shanghai Commerce Commission have jointly held roundtable sessions to help Singapore companies understand Shanghai’s development and its policies, and address operational challenges that they encounter, said Ms Tan Sock Joo, a deputy director at the statutory board.

Mr Charles Ho, a core council member of SCCCI, said the chamber, supported by Enterprise Singapore, has also established a Singapore Enterprise Centre in Shanghai to help businesses from the Republic expand into the Chinese market.

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