Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Despite the theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, messages of deeper integration and strengthened co-operation made their way into ASEAN leaders’ keynote speeches as they gathered today in Hà Nội for the plenary session of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN.
Realising the immense opportunities that the new era of digitalisation and automation might bring, but still anxious over the daunting challenges, leaders from the regional bloc that represents the world’s fifth largest economy emphasised the need to join hands and work together.
Prime Minister of host country Việt Nam Nguyễn Xuân Phúc suggested several intraregional co-operation mechanisms in several fields pertinent to Industry 4.0.
PM Phúc called for a regional data sharing mechanism and a cross-ASEAN mobile network, saying that “data is the cornerstone of Industry 4.0.”
The Vietnamese Government leader also regarded the small- and medium-sized enterprise community as “the backbone of the ASEAN economy,” and recommended establishing a talent incubator, saying that a start-up atmosphere is “truly permeating the region” as “ASEAN is known as the cradle of many new and innovative ideas around the world.”
Việt Nam also wants to push forward with its agenda of creating an ASEAN education network and system for life-long learning to help people adapt to rapid changes in the job market.
Following PM Phúc, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong affirmed ASEAN’s commitment to staying connected and pushing towards resilience and innovation.
"We need to strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system – it has underpinned our growth and stability but is under pressure and under threat,” he said.
Sharing the same sentiment, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua conveyed the country’s message for upholding an open global economy against the threats of rising protectionism.
Without specifically naming the US and President Donald Trump, with whom China is embroiled in an escalating trade war, Hu Chunhua criticised “some countries’ protectionist and unilateral measures that gravely undermine the rule-based trading regime and cause hazard to the world’s economy,” while at the same time, affirming China’s commitments towards an open, connective and inclusive global economy.
"China’s resolve to open its doors even wider will not change, we will pursue opening up at its own pace. This will offer opportunities for ASEAN countries and beyond,” he said.
The Chinese vice premier also took the platform to court ASEAN countries to join its flagship ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, with promises of win-win co-operation, through mutual vision in innovation-driven growth.
On a lighter note in an otherwise sombre event, Indonesian President Joko Widodo referenced Marvel comic villain Thanos, who wanted to wipe out half of life in the universe, through random probability, so that the surviving half may prosper given limited resources.
Joko used the comic book figure to speak of the increasingly real threats of trade spats and pledged to defend liberalism and integration efforts.
Thanos was not one single person, but "inside all of us," Widodo said.
"It’s the misguided belief that in order for us to succeed, others must surrender. It is the misperception that the rise of some must mean the decline of others," the Indonesian president said.
San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar, meanwhile, expressed her conviction that Industry 4.0 will be led by the younger generation, who will use their strength, creativity, and mastery of technology to facilitate the country’s entry into a new era.
“Myanmar is one of those countries that have practically bypassed the industrial revolution and we were forced to run straight into the fourth one,” she said, subtly referring to the “lost decades” of isolationism when Myanmar was under a military junta regime that gave way to a civilian government less than ten years ago.
The country has been playing catch-up with the rest of the world and are doing well in this regard, citing examples of cell phone prices dropping from over US$1500 to $1.50, and nationwide broadband growing from virtual non-existence in just five years, she said, adding “one quantum leap leads to another”, referring to the increasingly popular e-banking and e-commerce platforms in Myanmar.
San Suu Kyi believed that the most crucial aspect of the fourth industrial revolution remains the human factor, with Myanmar’s approach being based on the “creativity, empathy, and stewardship of our people, especially of the young.”
In the context of an economic forum, it’s unavoidable that there’s a need for the creativity and talents of the young people to be made ‘marketable,’ not just for making money but for helping the whole region close the development gap, the Myanmar State Counsellor said.
She stressed the need to reform the education system in line with the Industry 4.0-era, and open up opportunities of education, with a focus on practical skills, for all people. — VNS