China and Southeast Asia: Building Cooperation, Managing Complexities – SCMP hosts flagship China Conference in Kuala Lumpur

11 October, 2018 Kuala Lumpur — From 10-11 October, South China Morning Post brought together business leaders, government officials and leading experts at its China Conference in Kuala Lumpur to examine important issues for the region.

The two-day conference welcomed over 1,000 corporate leaders and policymakers, and over 65 prominent speakers from China, Southeast Asia and beyond, for a frank and forward-looking series of discussions about how to create mutually beneficial policies. A series of high-level keynote speeches provided government perspectives, while break-out sessions delved into business and investment opportunities in the infrastructure, finance, and tech sectors. Topics discussed ranged from AI’s influence to SEA business, the BRI ‘debt trap’, Islamic financing, cashless payments and many more.

With concerns rising over its trade war with the US, China appears to be strengthening its relationships throughout southeast Asia. The world’s second largest economy has become a key partner for Southeast Asia in trade, investment, and infrastructure development. Ties are poised to grow even stronger in the coming decade, as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and growing economy promise to have major implications for Asia.

In his opening remarks, Gary Liu, CEO, SCMP stressed that, “China can’t be truly examined without looking at Southeast Asia. Holding the China Conference in Kuala Lumpur reflects the central importance of Malaysia and the rise of ASEAN.”

While in discussion on economic ties between the two sides, C Y Leung, Vice Chairman, National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said, Economic integration or globalisation may have been put in reverse gear, and no vehicle in reverse gear can go far or fast. Protectionism for whatever purpose is misguided and will be short lived. Integration offers a better economic future.” .  

Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba Group, joined the conference via live-video stating that “Entrepreneurs should have long-term vision, patience, and a willingness to learn. If you’re not optimistic, don’t be an entrepreneur.”

On building a stronger and sustainable tech ecosystem in the region, Quek Siu Rui, Co-founder and CEO of Carousell shared his thoughts, “There isn’t enough tech talent in the region. We need to have passionate, young, hungry people with huge potential, but you (also) need a few bar raisers to show them this is how you build… that balance of contributing to and developing that ecosystem.”

“We are at the most uncertain and risky moment in U.S. China relations in perhaps 30 years,” said Michael Crowley, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent for POLITICO who was also the moderator for the panel discussion – Towards Safer Regional Security. “As a trade war emerges and top U.S. officials call for a stronger strategic response to China, it is crucial to have public conversations like the one SCMP hosted about potential economic and security consequences.”  

Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Minister of Economic Affairs, Malaysia, closed the two-day conference by saying, “China’s commitment to peaceful development is absolutely crucial for the continued prosperity of the region. The region must remain a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality and must not be allowed to be militarised.”

Key Speakers included:

  • Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Minister of Economic Affairs, Malaysia
  • Hon. C Y Leung, Vice Chairman, National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference;
  • Yang Berhormat Datuk Norazman Bin Ayob, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia
  • Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Social Scientist and Former United Nations Under-Secretary-General
  • Joe Tsai, Chairman, South China Morning Post Publishers and Executive Vice Chairman, Alibaba Group;
  • Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, Managing Director, Khazanah Nasional Bhd
  • Thomas G. Tsao,  Founding Partner, Gobi Partners
  • Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Francis Yeoh Sock-ping, Executive Chairman, YTL Group of Companies
  • Alan Hellawell, Group Chief Strategy Officer, SEA Group
  • Steven Lam, Chief Executive Officer, GoGoVan
  • Dr Joseph Liow, Dean, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies; Dean of College of Humanities, Arts and Social Science, Nanyang Technological University

For more information about the conference, pleaser visit


South China Morning Post is a leading global news company that has reported on China and Asia for more than a century. Founded in 1903, SCMP is headquartered in Hong Kong, where it is the city’s newspaper of record, with a growing correspondent staff across Asia and the United States. SCMP’s vision is to “Elevate Thought” and our mission is to “Lead the global conversation about China”. Additionally, SCMP publishes a portfolio of premium lifestyle and fashion titles in Hong Kong, including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Esquire and, Harper’s BAZAAR. SCMP is also home to Abacus, a digital news brand focused on China’s tech industry; Inkstone, a daily news brief for those curious about China’s growing impact around the world; and Goldthread, a content platform with a focus on food, travel, and culture in China.


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