Davos & Dalian

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The “Summer Davos” took place in Dalian at the end of last week, bringing together “New Champions” from around the world for some serious networking (the guest list makes for interesting reading) and some big thinking.

It should really be no surprise that the World Economic Forum, like so many other organisations and events, is in China. But for some Dalian might not be very familiar (see more here). It is another reminder to the uninitiated that China is so much more than Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The more senior executives that can be pulled out of that old threesome the better!

I was not at the event myself (maybe next time?!) but two of my clients, and a few other bloggers, were. Some insights to the event, for those of us not on the ultimate guest list follow:

Rebecca McKinnon (in Global Voices, h/t China Vortex) points to a serious discussion on China’s “Soft Power” in which the US side got a bashing from the China one.

    “[Thomas] Friedman accused China of being a “free loader” in the post-cold war world, while the U.S. has shouldered the role of global “guardian.”

    “…Sha [Zukang China’s U.N. Undersecretary-General] rejected the whole idea of “soft power,” calling it a “condescending approach” and “notion created by Western developed countries.”

Meanwhile Kaiser Kuo over at Ich Bin Ein Beijinger had a nice networking lunch with some Young Global Leaders, including Oswald Boateng (eponymous designer), Hanson Chea (Silk Road capitalist), Joshua Cooper Ramos (Kissinger associate), Feng Jun (Aigo IT entrepreneur), and varied other worthies.

Shanghai Daily provides a brief wrap that points to wide-ranging discussions from the importance (and opportunity) of the environment to growth of China’s service sector.

Or, from a contrarian, coal-face perspective (in the Access Asia newsletter, of course) perhaps the whole thing will “yield little and be another hot air shop like the rather pointless Boao Forum – all genuflecting, back slapping, saying the right thing and, of course, being ‘turbocharged’”.

The next round of the event will be held in Tianjin, 25-27 September, 2008. Between now and then much more will be written and said about China, and its role in the world…and much thought will be given to getting onto the guest list!

While I did not have the pleasure of networking with the high-fliers in Dalian, I did recently have an opportunity to attend an event with a Big Bank in Beijing. Involving people from around the world it was interesting to see perceptions of China develop during the course of the event as icons such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall were contrasted, in spectacular off-site events, with the latest developments such as the 798 art district and the Commune on the Great Wall.

Hopefully, with events like these, more first-hand knowledge about China, and its current opportunities and challenges, will also filter its way into the boardrooms of up-and-coming companies – and the big ones that have already arrived – around the world.

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