Battle for SE Asia heats up with Tencent Singapore move

Singapore skylineChina’s largest gaming company and WeChat social media platform operator Tencent Holdings today confirmed that it is to join Alibaba and Tiktok owners ByteDance in making greater use of Singapore as a springboard for its South East Asia operations.
The region has taken on extra significance for the three Chinese high-tech giants in the light of Beijing’s deteriorating relations with the US and China. At the beginning of September, following this summer’s bitter disputes along the Indo-Chinese Himalayan border, India banned 118 Chinese apps – including several of Tencent’s services, among them  the highly popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) – on the grounds that they were ‘prejudicial to [the] sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.’ (For its part, Tencent has insisted that its apps comply with India’s data protection laws and that it would engage with local authorities to clarify its policies.)
Singapore PM Lee Hsien LoongThe ban came soon after US President Donald Trump issued executive orders banning any US transactions with either ByteDance or Tencent and the combination of the two developments prompted Tencent to accelerate its plans to turn Singapore into a regional hub as a means of  fireproofing its SE Asian operations against any escalation of hostilities between Washington and Beijing. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been at pains to remain neutral during the current US-China trade standoff and has pledged to remain ‘good friends’ with both superpowers. It is a policy that promises to establish Singapore as a commercial and operational hub for China’s high-tech giants as they vie for market share in  a region that is home that is  home to  650 million increasingly smartphone-savvy consumers. While Tencent is planning to open a new office  to “support our growing business in South-east Asia and beyond,” ByteDance is planning to spend several billion dollars and add hundreds of jobs in Singapore over the next three years. In May, Alibaba agreed to buy 50% of the $1.2bn Axa Tower in downtown Singapore.