In the wake of Jack Ma’s very public defenestration and with Chinese authorities talking of “common prosperity” and making no secret of their desire to cut down to size other articulate billionaires, unsurprisingly the Chinese elite is taking flight. Had the Chinese economy been booming perhaps these billionaires might have hung around but with a variety of sources suggesting that China is undergoing an economic implosion after years of poor capital allocation, China’s great and the good are taking off. And where are they going? ‘Singapore’ is the one-word answer: “After enduring years of political crackdowns, severe Covid lockdowns, and unease about Beijing’s global reputation, many of China’s wealthiest have been packing their suits and designer dresses. And, according to wealth management professionals in Singapore, an increasing number are booking plane tickets to the city-state.
Anecdotal reports indicate that well-heeled clients have been arriving in droves at Singapore’s hotels and seaside estates — which suggests the city-state could overtake Hong Kong as the premier destination for Asia’s rich, after Beijing’s clampdown on the former British colony tarnished its allure.”
With our friends in Singapore reporting multiple bids for their houses coming in from multiple Chinese billionaire families, lawyer & bankers in Singapore are being swept off their feet: ““It has been really crazy this year,” says Vikna Rajah, co-head of the private client business at law firm Rajah & Tann. He says his team in Singapore is handling one enquiry every week from multimillionaires keen to establish a family office — a type of private investment firm. About a third of those approaches come from China. A few years ago, the firm would receive only “a handful” of enquiries every year.
“In times of uncertainty, there is always a flood to more stable jurisdictions,” Rajah says. “Singapore is seen as extremely safe, [with a] strong rule of law.”
Another financial services professional in Singapore, speaking on condition of anonymity, was more cynical: the sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs over the Ukraine war have made wealthy Chinese fear similar restrictions if Beijing pursues an invasion of Taiwan. Moving to Singapore could create some useful distance from the Chinese government, the person argues.
Chinese billionaires want “to stop being identified as a Chinese person,” the professional explains. “It is like money laundering. Except you are laundering your own identity”.
Joseph Poon, head of private banking at Singapore lender DBS, also says demand “is getting stronger and stronger” from Chinese clients looking to establish family offices.”
In case you are also thinking of moving to Singapore, you might want to check that you have at least Rs 600 million lined up: “In April, Singapore marginally raised the bar for family offices to qualify for tax exemptions on the income from their investments. In a move seemingly designed to stop foreigners treating Singapore “like a hotel”, officials announced that they must now invest at least S$10mn ($7.1mn) locally in Singapore, or 10 per cent of their assets if this is lower…”
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