Why Chinese companies fleeing the ‘Cold War’ is good news for Singapore

The more desperately Chinese firms seek a haven for their international operations, the more they’ll lean toward Singapore. Will their love be reciprocated?

Amid the drumbeats of a U.S.-China cold war, the Southeast Asian island-state is often talked about as a sanctuary for capital looking to flee the clash of superpowers. But aging Singapore, with excess savings of its own, doesn’t want a truckload of new money.

Business investments, however, are very different from potentially destabilizing financial flows. They create jobs, provide new orders to local vendors, and spark optimism about the future, something rather badly needed amid the Covid-19 despondence. That’s why Singapore must be pleased to see Tencent Holdings Ltd., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and ByteDance Ltd. coming to the city with investment plans worth billions of dollars.

All of them have their own reasons for flocking to the nation of 5.7 million people. According to Bloomberg News, Alibaba is exploring a $3 billion investment in Grab Holdings Inc., which is pivoting from a Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm to a regional super app with finance at its core.

Grab has applied for a Singapore digital bank license, and so has Alibaba-backed Ant Group, the world’s hottest fintech, awaiting its initial public offering in Hong Kong. Reuters reported in June that Grab and Tencent-backed Sea Ltd., a Singaporean maker of online games, have made the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s shortlist.

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