Beijing Diary By Samantha Tan Chiew Ting
Bernama’s correspondent in Beijing, Samantha Tan Chiew Ting, shares her experience in China’s capital city. This week, she writes about the huge potential of the halal market in China.
BEIJING (Bernama) — China’s economy may be slowing down but opportunities for investors are still abound.
Whether in the tourism, healthcare, trading or business sector, China will be always be one of the top choices for investors.
This is due to China’s increasingly open policies, reforms as well as growing middle-class and affluent population.
To take advantage of China’s developing market, Malaysia should select a niche that capitalises on its strength, such as the halal industry.
Malaysia has an established footing in the global halal industry with its certification recognised worldwide.
Besides the halal market, Malaysia also at the forefront of Islamic finance and has taken an active and proactive role in the development of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Although there is already an existing halal food industry in China, there is still plenty of room for growth.
Islamic Finance, on the other hand, is relatively new in the country. Therefore, there are a plethora of opportunities within the sector to be explored.
The size of this business potential is often overlooked because the major religions in China are Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
China has a significant Muslim population, particularly in the northwest provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu and Ningxia, as well as throughout Yunnan and Henan.
There are easily over 20 million Muslims in China and the number is projected to grow to over 30 million by 2030.
This is a certainly a market that no one should ignore.
China’s continuous reform will result in the opening of doors to not only big cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, but also to its second and third tier cities like Chengdu, Wuhan, Xiamen as well as provinces that are home to a large Muslim population.
Despite the lure of such upcoming developments, provinces like Xinjiang, Gansu and Ningxia should not be overlooked. With higher wages and a better standard of living, more of the population will be in the market for specific products and services.
I have once attended an Islamic conference in China and raised the question of why the halal market in China has yet to mature.
Some replied that the sensitivity of the issue probably dissuaded many from pursuing the course while others believed that it was the general lack of awareness and understanding of the term and Islamic law itself.
However, there is a greater interest among Chinese firms to turn to Islamic finance today as an alternative way to seek funds for their overseas expansions, particularly for its One Belt and Road programme.
One significant benefit of Islamic finance is that it promotes financial stability as the practise is based on the principles of risk sharing and despite being based on Shariah principles, it is not restricted to only Muslims.
Khaled Al-Aboodi, the CEO and General Manager of Islamic Corporation for the Development of Private Sector at the Islamic Development Bank, pointed out that there was promising potential for Islamic finance in helping China rebalance its economy and achieve sustainable growth.
He said as China transitioned into the next stage of development towards greater international integration, Islamic finance would serve to benefit it through two ways.
Firstly, for China, Islamic finance serves as a viable alternative financing source for development in its bid to calibrate its economy, and secondly, China’s foray into Islamic finance will map a new growth trajectory for the industry moving forward.
All that is left then is to persuade the Chinese companies to switch to Islamic finance.
This is where Malaysia can step in. Its position in the OIC and strong friendship with China can help it become the bridge that links up the OIC and China.
This would ultimately promote and encourage the development of the Islamic market in China.