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Dramatic Changes Predicted at Future of Asia Conference

Dramatic Changes Predicted at Future of Asia Conference

According to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council‘s  (LAWAC) Future of Asia Conference that took place on September 15 and 16, “Asia is a continent where the stakes are rising rapidly – both in economic promise and expansion of individuals’ horizons, but also in environmental and security challenges.”

57 speakers, that included Gunjan Bagla of Amritt Inc., and 414 attendees engaged in wide-ranging conversations at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, California  about the future of the Asia-Pacific and its relations with the U.S.  “Asia’s Emerging Middle Class”, is predicted by the Organization for Economic C0-operation and Development to grow from 500 million in 2009 to 3 billion by 2030; and by 2050 more than 50% of world GDP will be generated in Asia, up from one-third today.

Quotable quotes from the conference as provided in a summary by LAWAC

Shivshankar Menon, former Indian National Security Adviser, said that by 2030 “Asia will surpass the combined economic and military might of North America and Europe – this is not that the U.S. is declining, but that China and India are rising.”

Martin Drew, CEO  of Etihad Airways USA  said, “In India, currently only 3% of the population travels overseas – a “mere” 40 million people, while in China just 4% of the population has passports – and Chinese tourists still spend more money around the world than any other nation.  Wait until they reach American levels of 35%, or European levels where 70% of the population has a passport!”
 “One Canada is being built every year in Asia” said Benjy Ward from the architectural firm Gensler.

Andy Xie, former top China economist for Morgan Stanley, said, ” “the nominal GDP [of China] is up by 22 times, but nobody has made money off the stock market – that is totally nuts! All China’s problems can be traced to misallocation of capital.”

“China and India will account for half the Asian middle class by 2030 and one-third of the global middle class,” said Alan Siqueira of Wells Fargo. “The numbers are staggering and will generate significant growth opportunities for multinational companies.”

Bilahari Kausikan, ambassador-at-large from Singapore, said that South East Asian countries “want to have the best possible relationship with both the U.S. and China, and do not want to have to choose between them – the U.S. will play a vital role in maintaining this balance.”

Duncan Clark, the author on a book about Alibaba’s Jack Ma, recounted the meteoric rise of Ma from tour guide to one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the world through his ability to “lead and inspire – he is a fantastic talker.”

Gunjan Bagla of Amritt said that under Prime Minister Modi “corruption in the higher levels of India has been pretty much eliminated.”

Jonathan Friedland of Netflix said, “Incomes are rising enormously across Asia and there are lots of adaptations for mobile businesses. All of this benefits the consumption of entertainment.”

Admiral Harry Harris, the Hawaii-based PACOM commander, said in his keynote speech, “I want you to stop for a minute and think about this – combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missiles in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong-Un is a recipe for disaster.”

Dinner Keynote by Admiral Harry Harris
Dinner Keynote by Admiral Harry Harris

Eiichi Katahara from the National Institute of Defense Studies in Tokyo expressed paradoxical concerns about China: “Yes, we are concerned about China’s growing [military] capacity, but we are also concerned about China collapsing.  We need China to be stable!”

“There is a low probability of conflict breaking out over the South China Sea,” said Admiral Dennis Blair, former PACOM commander and Director of National Intelligence.

Richard McGregor of the Financial Times, said of the relationship between Japan and China,  “Japan is not sure if they want China to succeed or fail.” On the same topic, Liu Ming from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said, “I think our countries are both very smart. We will have half competition and half cooperation.”

Jeff Wasserstrom of UC Irvine cautioned that by trying to build railroads in violence-prone countries like Pakistan, China might be overstepping – “China is venturing into dangerous territory there.”

Summary

Terry McCarthy, president and CEO of  the LA World Affairs Council summed up the various discussions and deliberations of the two day conference:

The future of Asia is, of course, uncertain territory – full of opportunity, but pricked with risk and unknowable unknowns. Who could have imagined a penniless tour guide from a small Chinese city rising to become the world’s largest online seller in the space of 15 years?  As Asian countries continue to grow in economic and political might, one of the defining questions for their future, and for the future of the world, will be the quality of leadership in Asia – in government, in board rooms, and in society at large. ”

 

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