There’s a burning need at hand to produce new thinking and foster engagement to create fresh ideas about how to generate growth, progress and prosperity for the planet. Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Rob Johnson, launched a three-day event in Hong Kong entitled, ‘Changing of the Guard?’ with an appeal to formulate a new model for an East-West partnership.
Johnson reminded his audience that, “Many people learned that during the financial crisis…they lost their house, their jobs…they learned that they are not really in control of their own lives.” How Asia and the West can together weed out the bad ideas and replace them with good ones is the central pillar of this gathering, which brings to the same table some of the planet’s foremost economic thinkers and leaders – among them two Nobel Laureates, Americans Michael Spence and James Heckman.
Global business leader, George Soros, understands that these uncertainties lie at the heart of life. Johnson said, Western economists designed fragile financial systems that were not stable – the century of self is over and the West must bind itself together with Asia to revision a less egocentric individual.
Bold ideas for profound challenges. Founding Chairman of the Fung Global Institute, Victor K. Fung, also a leading Asian businessman, told the hundreds of guests during the keynote lunch, that we are, “Emerging into a complex and confusing time.” The conference, Fung said, “is not about Asian triumphalism…it’s about a meeting of hearts and minds…where the East is once again a hemisphere of dynamism.” Partnership, dialogue and a genuine spirit of inquiry are behind the tone and agenda of the conference.
Fung believes there needs to be global solutions to global problems. The Lehman Brothers crisis of 2008 revealed what was wrong with the existing system and exposed its riskiest vulnerabilities – in the areas of finance and consumption. The movement of goods was simple before 2008: it was East to West. The West demanded and the East supplied. But now the world is much more nuanced. Fung notes how global supply chains have taken on new contours. The emphasis has been removed from the export side and part of this paradigm shift is the expansion of the middle classes in China and India. China’s middle-classes will amplify to 500 million over the next few years, while in India the numbers will soar from 22 to 91 million households. Mind-blowing numbers that need creative thinking and policies to support their expansion.
Fung Global Institute Academic Council Chairman, Michael Spence, is optimistic about the resilience in Asia after the 2008 crisis. Spence said that many countries in the region, showed they were able to, “bounce back from a pretty big hit.” China’s dream is to return to its pre-industrial strength as a leading civilisation. And that can be arranged if China consciously changes the role of the state from controller to upstream investor and role-maker. The danger with China’s new generation of leaders is to retain a model of growth that has so far been hugely successful, delivering double-digit growth that is the stuff of dreams in the West.
To see the Fung Global Institute’s Special page on INET, click here