Gaston Chee’s speech on World Young Leaders Summit

Speaker: Gaston Chee
22 September 2019 at Hangzhou International Expo Center

Your Excellencies Ambassadors,


Distinguish guests, ladies and gentlemen, and friends,


It is indeed a privilege and an honour for me to address this dinner reception. I promise you I will try my best to keep this speech short so that we can all enjoy the delicious food prepared by our wonderful host.


The theme of the conference, “Creation Leads the Future” fits the city of Hangzhou. In many ways, the city is living in the future. As the internet continues to transform the way we live and do business, the city comfortably sits at the apex of e-commerce, AI and machine learning and the internet of things. What better place to discuss this than Hangzhou, and who better to discuss this that the entrepreneurs and businesses who are redefining the future.


World Young Leaders Summit 2019

It is my pleasure to be among such great individuals whose wealth of experience and endless innovation is truly inspirational. Earlier this morning I had the opportunity to accompany our international friends and ambassadors from 5 different countries to visit the West Lake and the surrounding areas. There is a Chinese saying, 上有天堂,下有苏杭。Hangzhou is indeed a truly beautiful and magical place. 


Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China

And during the afternoon, we have witnessed many fascinating speeches and heard from some of the best in the industries. I was very impressed by many of the business ideas and sharing throughout the forum and what further caught my attention was the quality of many of the young entrepreneurs who were present at the forum. It’s like witnessing the Jack Ma of tomorrow. What an honour. What a privilege.


China’s astonishing growth in the last few decades to become the world’s second-biggest economy had not only to raise China’s image globally and created shared prosperity throughout the region, but it has also contributed to uplifting the status of Asian countries as a force to be reckoned with.


Millions of Chinese entrepreneurs have changed their lives through hard work and innovation. When added up, these small changes have become a powerful force driving China’s development and progress. What we see here in Hangzhou today showcases what has been achieved through the vision of entrepreneurs and the roles played by the Chinese government as well as the positive contribution of organisations such as Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce and its Young Entrepreneur Committee in linking up the local businesses with the world and beyond.


I am very proud to be of Malaysian with Chinese roots and I have always been fascinated with the “can-do spirit” and hard-working attitude of my late grandfather (朱光强), my father (朱长财), and the Chinese community (华裔) around me. Growing up in a family that was heavy in the auto industry, it has always fascinated me how my father is so committed to the business. My father started his business in trading auto-motive parts before setting up his factories not too far away from here, in Ningbo, Zhejiang. As a casual listener to conversations with business associates or long-distance calls, I can hear my father speak and discuss cars and their parts, on making them faster and better, cheaper and accessible. That does a lot to a curious young mind.


However, it is not until I was 12 years old, nearly 20 years ago, that I travelled to China to witness first hand for myself what the Chinese people were going through and despite the hardship and struggles to face the Chinese people that time, they remain steadfast, dedicated and committed to overcoming their struggle. They never complain, they don’t blame others and continue to be hard working in all the tasks that they have undertaken, and along the way, over 800 million people out of poverty; that is equivalent of 25 times the size of Malaysia population and nearly 3 times the size of the US. 


Today, China is one of the most dynamic economies in the world. This is a testament to China’s good governance and a model that many developing countries can learn from.


As a proud Malaysian, with Chinese roots, I am very thankful to China and its people for friendship, openness and hospitality. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to many countries. However, China continues to impress me the most especially in its commitment towards opening up and reform. It’s strong and stable leadership that is dedicated to tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges – from Climate Change to poverty eradication and to making it easier for people to do business and trade across borders.


In addition to your friendship, we are also grateful to the Chinese government and the Chinese business community and entrepreneurs for investing in Malaysia. The likes of Alibaba, Huawei, Geely and Mr Wang’s Company (Huali Group – the largest private investor from Zhejiang in Malaysia) have all invested significantly in Malaysia. In addition to capital investment, our friendship has also deepened on many levels and more significantly. When our foreign minister Dato Saifuddin visited China last week, he echoed the same sentiment, that Chinese people are hard-working and your hard work has contributed to the economic miracle in China. Hard work and knowledge – these are the two values my Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says are needed for a nation to become successful.


The previous generation has shaped China to be what we witness today and the younger generation is challenged to understand and appreciate how far China has come. We attribute this to the spirit (精神) of the Chinese people,  – which is hardworking attitude, resilient and willingness to learn.


This is the spirit of China that my late grandfather and father has shown me, it is also the same spirit that I see among the Chinese communities around the world and has become a major driving force that underpins China’s economic reform and opening up.


I had the opportunity to travel to Angola as part of a delegate of investors a few years after the civil war has ended, and it’s the people welcomed us with open arms. I asked the government officials why am I also welcome here, they say because I looked Chinese and the Chinese have helped build ports, railways, roads, schools and hospitals. China remains the biggest contributor of peacekeepers among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The proud sons and daughters of the Chinese people are among the UN peacekeepers that gave their lives to the mission of peace in many parts of the world.


It took me only 5 hours to travel from Beijing to Hangzhou, polishing my speech on the train while travelling at the speed of 303 km/hour, overlooking the fields, factories and high-rise buildings. And in Hangzhou, this is the place where G20 summit was hosted and many fortune global companies are located here.


This is China today. A China that is global and connected.


China High-speed Railway (Gao Tie) rated up to 350km/h

As China’s interaction with the world continues to deepen, we rely on the business communities who are going global to represent the goodwill of the Chinese people. We also rely on Chinese entrepreneurs who share a global perspective and remain rooted in their Chinese characteristics that embody win-win, openness, ‘can-do’ attitude, hard work and the willingness to keep learning and growing. We rely on governments officials who understand the concept of economic diplomacy and multilateral trade. And we can only achieve all these through inspiring the next generation and working with youth and supporting them with the necessary resources, providing them with access to good education and becoming a role model that they can look up to. That’s why forums like this, where we gather the business community, governments and our international friends are so valuable. And all of us can play a part in inspiring the next generation and creating shared prosperity for mankind. 


10 to 15 years ago, many Chinese students who have studied abroad were hesitant to return to China, but now not only do Chinese students want to return to their motherland upon completing their studies, but people from all over the world want to come to China as this is where all the action is. Nearly half a million Chinese students return from the US and the UK every year upon completing their studies. There are 171 missions and embassies in Beijing alone, making China the most international and diverse community around the world. Alone, we can only do so little, but together with a group of bilingual, bi-cultural and internationally exposed group of young people, under the right guidance and sound policies, we will be able to do something truly far-reaching and impactful. 


Ladies and Gentlemen,




The ancient Chinese believed that “one should be good at finding the laws of things and solving problems”. Building a thriving economy and creating a shared future is an exciting goal, and it requires efforts from generation after generation. The business community is the main driver of growth and I see Hangzhou at the forefront of this driving the growth. The next generation of business owners and the sons and daughters of family enterprises will need to carry China’s legacy forward and for China to be truly global, we need to win the hearts and the minds of other nations. We need to win the respect of other people. People of other culture, race and background. And to do so, we need the help of young people and entrepreneurs, for they are the future. And therefore, I invite all of you, to help plant the seed of goodwill and continue the people to people exchange and to be a role model for the youth. 


Thank you.