Singapore—In a speech at Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) on July 22 wherein he addressed close to a hundred teachers and students from around the globe, Chan Chun Sing, the country’s Trade and Industry Minister, underlined the importance of the next generation in building connections and not walls.
He said that it is the younger generation’s choice amid incredible progress with “connectivity of ideas, technology, and trade” to elect to create even stronger connections, instead of building walls that would impede progress.
The Trade and Industry Minister spoke at the opening ceremony of the 13th Hwa Chong Asia Pacific Young Leaders Summit. This event is held yearly wherein student leaders from different countries are given the opportunity to meet several officials of the government, as well as get to go to important institutions in Singapore.
Students attending the summit were from 27 different schools from across the Asia-Pacific, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States. They will be in Singapore until July 26, Friday.
The delegates were scheduled to have tea with President Halimah Yacob at the Istana on June 22 as well. On Wednesday, they will go to the third Hwa Chong Centennial Insights series, wherein former foreign minister George Yeo and Harvard University Professor Michael Puett are the speakers. The theme of this year’s insight series is “Wisdom of the East and West: A Global Future”.
Mr Chan told the international audience that the fact that they were present at the talk is a sign of connections made in the last few decades.
He told the audience that when he was a student 30 years ago at Cambridge University in the UK, his main means of communication to his family back in Singapore was through sending an aerogramme monthly. This letter took two weeks to get to Singapore.
This he contrasted with today’s technology as people can communicate instantly via WhatsApp or Skype. In some developing countries, mobile technology is now more common than traditional landlines.
And even mobile banking is contributing toward giving access to people who live remotely, and in disciplines such as manufacturing, medical research, or cinema production, cross-border collaboration has become more the norm.
The Trade and Industry Minister, however, acknowledged the disruption that new technologies and greater connectivity bring.
He asked the audience, “Do we embrace integration or do we close our borders?
In the 1920s, we didn’t make a wise choice and ended up with the Great Depression, when countries and economies were fragmented.”
He told the young people that it is vital to be brave and to have the kind of leadership that creates bridges and realizes the advantages of a globally integrated system.
Mr Chan told them, “Many countries are unable to muster the resources and political will to evolve new business models and help their people acquire new skills. When people are left behind, they resist the connectivities of ideas, technology, and trade. This is why today we see a pushback against globalisation.
If the world continues to be protectionist and fragmented, successive generations will not be able to enjoy the prosperity and progress as we do now.” -/TISG