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China’s tech titans turn Singapore into their new overseas hub

Written by Stella Soon Published on     2 mins read

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iQiyi launches new venture, while ByteDance hires hundreds.

China’s internet giants continue to expand their operations in Singapore at a breathtaking pace. Baidu-backed video streaming service iQiyi, which made the city its international headquarter in December, on Wednesday announced that it will set up a talent management agency together with local media company GHY Culture & Media.

The agency, named Uni-Icon Entertainment, will identify and develop performers from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines who will be trained in acting, dance, and hosting. iQiyi and GHY will also produce a talent search program that will be streamed on iQiyi’s platforms. “Talents will be promoted in various markets, including China and Southeast Asia, to break into the international entertainment industry,” explained an iQiyi spokesperson.

TikTok-owner ByteDance said late last year that it will move to a bigger office in the city and increase its headcount. As of Thursday, 311 positions on its career site were based in Singapore, with the vast majority being engineering roles, related to machine learning, speech recognition, and computer vision.

“Singapore offers a business-friendly and conducive environment that enables innovation to thrive,” a ByteDance spokesperson told KrASIA. “We are committed to deepening the pool of local talent and upskilling the local workforce through on-the-job trainings.”

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Tencent, a major backer of local poster child Sea Group, also announced in September that it would open its Southeast Asian regional hub in Singapore, as its fourth office in the region. The firm will lease nearly 200 seats at the JustCo’s co-working space on Raffles Place.

The island-state stands to benefit from the Chinese influx. “They have a very strong plan in terms of how they want to unlock the Southeast Asia market,” said Su Lian Jye, an analyst with ABI Research. He believes that Singapore could soon become an innovation hub that drives technology trends. “When it comes to technology, it has always been a tad behind Silicon Valley in a way,” Su said.

Labor costs and the language could become a problem for the Chinese companies, which prefer to communicate in Mandarin. That’s a barrier for international staff who don’t know the language, said Yu Liuqing, country analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit. “It will pose a challenge for them to expand not only in Singapore, but also internationally,” he said.

Singapore’s economy seems to notice the boost already. Chinese firms were expected to add nearly 40% of value to Singapore’s gross domestic product in 2020, a fourfold increase of its share from 2019.

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