The Unbearable Burden of Globalization

19 October 2001

I am deeply honoured today to be able to take part in the first Teo Chew International Convention to be held in the capital of our motherland. Over 3,000 Teo Chews from all over the world have converged here today, including Mr. Chuang Shih Ping, who has contributed so much to the development of the Chaoshan area and who is highly respected among fellow Teo Chews. I also take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to our State leaders for their strong support.

As we celebrate this happy occasion, it is inconceivable for us to consider what an uninteresting place this world would be if its inhabitants consisted only of Teo Chews. Please don’t misunderstand. As a fellow Teo Chew, I am deeply proud of our history, our culture, and all that characterizes us as who we are. I have very happy memories of my childhood in Chaozhou. Yet what is central to the development of the civilized world is its diversity, crystallized through great traditions and differing beliefs. Centuries of interaction between every race have brought innovation and dynamic development, more equal access to rights, responsibilities and privileges. Perhaps all in the hope of creating the “better informed man”, who would consistently exercise wisdom and prudence in his pursuit of a richer and fuller life and in his strive for a more humane, caring, efficient and productive world.

Driven by great entrepreneurial spirit, commerce has become a revolution. From camels travelling back and forth on the lonely Silk Road to mass competition between people from all corners of the earth. Some claim that globalization means a runaway world, its reach, complexity and paradoxical nature creating enormous opportunity and great wealth for those who know how to invest and participate but condemning a great majority to a life of misery and even despair, instilled with fear and rage knowing that their lives and livelihood are gripped by forces over which they have no control. In their relentless pursuit of greater efficiency and profit, corporations are right to seek to inflate their asset values. Massive capital flows easily into the most attractive markets, seeking out the lowest cost, the brightest people and the best opportunities. Every day, doing business is like wielding battle on the frontlines. To protect the interests of the company and its shareholders, managers are forced at great lengths to look for new ways to increase revenue and reduce cost. Technological advancement and capital investment do not necessarily translate into employment opportunities. Reconciling market competition and social responsibility is a difficult prospect. Yet if economic development cannot benefit society, then what is its purpose? If we ignore these issues, we are bound to pay a high price.

Globalization is a reality that cannot be reversed. A more important issue raised by globalization is how to eliminate discrimination and move forward together in harmony. Stability and confidence drive society forward, but no one yet knows all the answers. Person to person relationships take root in thought. Only when we consider these problems carefully will we be able to make change possible.

There is truth to be found in all of the major religions and systems of beliefs of the world, including Confucianism’s “virtue”, Buddhism’s “benevolence”, Taoism’s “compassion”, Christianity’s “universal love”, and Islam’s “purity”. To manage our gaping differences and co-exist in harmony, it is imperative that we gain a deeper understanding of each other’s beliefs and value systems. Although our differences may be great, they are by no means insurmountable. We can still find similarities and learn to tolerate.

Dear compatriots, over 20 million fellow Teo Chews all over the world have achieved success in a vast array of industries. In my personal experience, I have learned that perseverance and a commitment to serve society are not confined by limits of age or geography. Even today, I am still working hard to overcome new challenges and to fulfil my ambitions. We must adhere to such high expectations, not only for ourselves, but for our children, for our beloved motherland, and for the world in which we all live, in order to create a brighter future for everyone. Thank you.