Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chinese clans plan centre for new citizens

Aim is to better integrate them into Singapore. A NEW Chinese cultural centre to integrate newcomers to Singapore and showcase the local Chinese identity will be set up by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA).

By Rachel Chang

It will be a one-stop venue that Chinese community bodies can use for anything from performances and exhibitions to networking events and seminars.

The cost and site of the centre have yet to be finalised.


Helping execs understand China

FROM tea appreciation to conversing about Chinese poetry and art, it is all part of doing business in China.

A new programme for businessmen with interests in China will be a first in Asia to emphasise a social, cultural and political understanding of the mainland - knowledge that will give them a 'distinct cultural advantage in a world where guanxi (Mandarin for connections) matters', said Ms Low Yen Ling, chief executive of Business China.

The non-profit networking group will launch the programme in March, with the Nanyang Business School of the Nanyang Technological University.

Its first group of senior executives will go through three five-day modules that will have speakers who are Chinese government officials, scholars and business leaders.

The aim is to help them understand the Chinese business landscape, and the Chinese businessman's psyche.

One of the modules will require the executives to be in China, where they will be exposed to aspects of Chinese culture such as an appreciation of tea, wine, paintings, poetry and music.

To keep the programme exclusive and ensure close networking, each group will have no more than 40 people.

People applying to attend the programme must be rising stars in their companies who are likely to helm Asia or China operations in a few years.


The integration of new citizens will be one of the centre's primary goals, said the federation's president Chua Thian Poh yesterday when announcing the plan of the umbrella association.

This will be done by showcasing Singapore's local multicultural identity through performances and exhibits.

The cultural centre will also be a central venue for new immigrant groups to interact with the established and longstanding clans in Singapore, he said.

The federation aims to have the centre up in five years' time.

Mr Chua announced the plan at a Chinese New Year event organised jointly by the SFCCA and Business China, a networking group for building links between Singapore and China.

The project follows an amendment to the federation's constitution about six months ago to let new immigrant groups join the federation.

Its recognition of the importance of the Government's foreign talent policy was praised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was the guest of honour at yesterday's event.

It has done its part to facilitate integration, Mr Lee said, through initiatives like organising tours for new citizens to the different clan buildings in Singapore.

Speaking in Mandarin, he said the Government is happy to help the federation's cultural centre plan become reality. With a laugh, he added a caveat: 'It's easy to talk about it, but we have a lot of work to do.'

The Straits Times understands that the Government will provide a substantial portion of the funding for the new centre.

Asked how it will differ from other Chinese cultural institutions in Singapore, like the Chinese Heritage Centre at Nanyang Technological University, clan leaders pointed to two elements.

The first is that other institutions have more of a scholarly or museum bent. The new centre will be 'dynamic' and focused on activities, said vice-chairman of the federation's research and publications committee Li Yeming.

The second is its focus on the integration of newcomers.

'At the moment, we don't have a special place for interaction between new and old clans,' said Mr Chua.

President of new immigrant group Tian Fu Association Tony Du welcomed the plan. He said the centre would provide 'a much bigger platform and more resources for us to network with older clans'.

In his speech, PM Lee also lauded clan associations for the focus on values and character in their schools.

'We hope that the younger generation recognises that as citizens, they have rights but also responsibilities and duties,' he said. 'In chasing their own goals, they must also think of the country and society's interests.'

'Chinese school students all know the Confucian saying 'Help yourself by helping others'.'