Mr. Ronnie Chan of Hang Lung Properties Ltd. recently published an article at the Financial Times. The title is rather catchy - “The west’s preaching to the east must stop” - a title filled with patriotism and a hint of annoyance. A talk last Thursday night focused predominantly on the content of this article.

In essence, Mr. Chan argues for five of what he calls “global rebalancing” between East and West:

  1. a rebalancing of moral authority
  2. a shift in decision-making power in global economic affairs
  3. a shift in the centre of economic gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific
  4. a movement away from a total dependence on the US dollar as the global trading currency
  5. a movement to a more balanced and stable world
    In his speech delivered to a group of around thirty at the Citi Executive Conference Center, Ronnie surprised me as someone that is not only successful in business, but also extremely bold and intelligent.

His article sounds great to Asian ears - who doesn’t like to hear that your side of the world is triumphing while the old “winner” is now on the “losing” side? On the issue of morality, Mr. Chan wrote, “Now some in America are advocating a G2 with only the US and China. If the focus shifts to the G2 to make decisions, then what happens to democracy? The west has a moral dilemma.”

On the fourth issue, Mr. Chan wrote, “Over time some countries will keep more renminbi, making it more like a reserve currency.” Some how I’m not so hot on this one. Unless “over time” means “over decades.” Still, I don’t believe it - probably because the economists teaching my econ classes at Columbia don’t believe it.

But more on the event.

The reason why I say that Mr. Chan is bold is that he is very pragmatic in my view. Use the EU for example - “People argued for days about restructuring the EU… but I said, the rest of the world doesn’t give a damn.”

I have always thought that perhaps I do not “feel” much for the EU because I do not live there - but I guess I’m wrong. It’s a global phenomenon. People just don’t care. It’s like Canada.

On the topic of Japan, Mr. Chan also stated that in a nation with a decreasing population size (i.e. a decreasing work force), the “economic growth model” becomes an “economic maintenance model” - and a negative growth rate should no longer be seen as a “recession.” But uh… why don’t we just look at per capita growth instead?

This one is also interesting - “The word ‘Chineseness’ and ‘nationalism’ are oxymorons“ - the logic within which is too deep for my ESL brain. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me as to what Mr. Chan really meant. But from what I gathered, he is basically saying that the Chinese do not actually understand what “nationalism” means - that it was always triggered by something else. But I wasn’t sure.

Toward the end of the Q&A session, Mr. Chan touched on the Asia Business Conference because a lady in the crowd asked whether or not he was attending as he is one of the founders. Mr. Chan said, “we don’t invite outside people to come and talk as much… we listen and learn from one another.” Indeed a very unconventional idea. Maybe I’ll incorporate part of this for GCC Day.