The lure of Singapore: Chinese flock to ‘Asia’s Switzerland’

  • In a world where China is looking for friends, it gets a warm reception in Singapore. At the same time, Wall Street and US companies increasingly see Singapore as a premium alternative to other hubs.
  • The appeal of Singapore has grown during the pandemic. As China sealed itself off from the world, employed harsh lockdown measures and cracked down on wealth as part of a “common prosperity drive”, some in mainland China looked overseas – especially Singapore, owing to its neutrality, stability, low taxes and low corruption.
  • The politics are stable, the economy is stable and finally, it is a finance centre so capital can flow easily in and out. Furthermore, Singapore has not had to confront the sort of mass street protests that were seen in Hong Kong.
  • Investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners has had a significant spike in migration inquiries from Chinese nationals in 2022, which are up 83% by end of November compared to the full year 2021.
  • Singapore has gone from some 50 family offices in 2018 to 700 by the end of 2021 and lawyers and wealth management advisers estimate that number reached about 1,500 by the end of 2022. IQ-EQ, an investor services firm, estimates about 40% of that total are mainland Chinese.
  • According to government data, Chinese citizens bought 1,738 flats in 2021, which was 50 per cent higher than in 2019 and the most since 2012. Purchases were slightly lower, but still a historically high 1,314 units in 2022.
  • If rich Chinese feel that the current level of repression is lessening, that could reduce the number of people seeking an exit. But even more worrying, say experts, is the potential for Beijing to look at Singapore’s welcome to China’s wealthy and their accompanying flows of capital and seeing it as an opportunity to extend its influence.

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