Visions for a New Century
Edited by Frank-Jürgen Richter and Pamela Mar
Question 1: Your new book, Recreating Asia: Visions for a New Century, as I understand it represents some of the ideas coming out of the East Asia Economic Summit 2001 that was held in Hong Kong. Does the World Economic Forum usually publish articles like these and if not, why did you decide that this group of articles would be of interest and when exactly will J. Wiley & Sons be publishing this new collection?
Answer: This book is the first such collection based on a regional Summit. Although the Forum publishes the summaries of the sessions for its members and constituents, this is the first time that we have asked selected discussion leaders and participants to extend their thoughts for a wider dissemination. We thought that at such a critical time for Asia’s future, the public at large would benefit from the thoughts of some of the most accomplished people. The book is schedule to be released in September 2002.
Question 2: In your collection, you have articles from serving Asian Prime Ministers, Presidents, businessmen, lawyers, bankers, IT executives and even the Director-Designate of the WTO. How were the contributors selected and do they really represent the full diversity of opinion expressed at the meeting in Hong Kong?
Answer: Our aim in publishing is to be both very high quality and also representative of the “state of play” over any topic addressed. The contributors had to have both a record of achievement and also the ability to articulate clear thinking on a given issue. We have also tried to ensure a balance of views, and have not shied away from including contributors whose views might clash with those of other contributors.
Question 3: Could you explain to those who may have not heard of the World Economic Forum what exactly your organization does, how long you have been in operation and why Asians shuld be interested in your meetings and discussions?
Answer: The World Economic Forum is an international organization committed to improving the state of the world. The Forum provides a collaborative framework for the world's leaders to address global issues, engaging particularly its corporate members in global citizenship (more information on our website: http://www.weforum.org)
Asians should participate in our meetings because they represent the best and most efficient way to grasp the latest thinking on pressing issues, as well as connect with peers who are shaping industry or business development. In a globalized world, where change is breathtaking, staying in touch is key to any person’s horizons.
Question 4: In your forward, you offer three frameworks that you believe best demonstrate Asia’s re-creation: That Japan is closer than ever to moving out of Stasis; that China is Asia’s rising star and that Southeast Asia has awoken and is taking action to regain competitiveness. The middle point on China seems obvious, but with the current Koizumi Japanese government just losing two more political seats and with much of Southeast Asia seemingly stuck in endless rhetoric, where do you see your compelling proof for this framework?
Answer: It is always easy to argue that Japan is still mired in recession, and that Southeast Asia remains mostly driven by rhetoric. However, our assertion stems from the fact that beneath the rhetoric, there is REAL change going on, in industry and in parts of government, that warrants attention. The change-makers may be less vocal but that’s only because they are busy transforming their fields.
Question 5: In your collection of articles you look again at the much-debated concept of globalization. You include articles from Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad, Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia, Canada plus writings which seem to be more focused on regional security from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines, Jusuf Wananadi, Karim Raslan and others. How do these varied viewpoints inter-relate and do you see a consensus building in Asia on this subject different from what may be happening in the West?
Answer: We were not trying to seek a consensus or common “Asian approach” to globalization, but rather to present some of the ways in which Asians are dealing with global issues. The common theme, if there must be one, is that Asians grasp the value of globalization but know and need to ensure that Asia takes globalization one step, and one issue, at a time, always controlling the process of how global trends will impact the region. At the same time, Asians must remain shapers of globalization, and thus need to be actively involved in the global debate.
Question 6: Your collection contains a section titled “Strategies for Success: Asia’s Business Leaders Speak Out” and includes contributions by a very diverse group of Asia’s most famous business executives. One theme of this section seems to be that perhaps there is no Asian management model but a very diverse series of constantly mutating responses to particular corporate, national and international challenges of the particular Asian Company in question. Do you share this view and if so do you feel Asian companies or stronger or weaker today than they were a decade ago?
Answer: We agree that Asian companies have learned that they need to find their own unique management methods, rather than falling back to established models (whether characterized as “Eastern” or “Western”). Asian companies are definitely stronger now than a decade ago, and the strongest ones have strong leaders who craft a unique vision for the company’s growth, and then remain true to its implementation, notwithstanding the adaptations that the vision undergoes as the operating environment changes.
Question 7: Your collection also contains a number of pieces on Good Corporate Governance and in fact nearly all the contributors seem to mention it at some point in their pieces. Is all this discussion just a lot of smoke or are there real forces here that are moving Asian companies from Seoul to Jakarta in new ways?
Answer: The rhetoric on good governance translates into reality, and you will see many regulatory changes leading (and in some cases following) corporate changes in this field. Although we may not be able to claim that all or even most Asian companies are well governed, our goal is also to present evidence that respected companies and markets all have in common a respect for good corporate governance. This will help convince the “laggards” that it is time to change.
Question 8: The last portion of the book talks much about regionalism with very varied views from Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand, Xi Jinping of China, Keat Chhon of Cambodia and Hishammuddin Tun Hussein of Malaysia. Asean has long talked of achieving closer economic market integration but the reality of achievement has often been underwealming. Do you sense that there is real potential for an Asian Economic Union or perhaps a series of Asian Unions and if so why?
Answer: We don’t agree that the achievements on free trade or closer economic integration are “underwealming”. These leaders are all speaking from the commercial realities that testify to the region’s closer integration, while realizing that Asians will not, in the near decade, move towards a EU like grouping. The trade and monetary frameworks in the region is moving very much towards coordinated action, and the evidence on existing trade flows and monetary swap agreements remains strong, perhaps much stronger than in other regions. The fact that Asia does not have as many “formalized” FTAs is a temporary phenomenon.
Question 9. Your book includes numerous articles on hi-tech industry, broadband internet, and the future of IT Industry in Asia from contributors in China, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere. Is Asia’s experience with IT different from the experience of the U.S. and Europe and do you see the internet and the IT industry playing a greater or a lesser role in societal transformations in Asia going forward?
Answer: Internet and IT will play an increasing role in societal change, especially given the leap upwards that technology has given youth. Technology has empowered youth, and this, combined with entrepreneurial spirit, has already made lasting impacts in a growing number of fields. This is tremendous for several societies with Confucian, or patriarchal, heritages.
Question 10. You note in your book that going forward you see an Asia that is: an equal opportunity territory, as enabled by clear-sighted leaders with vision and focus, of transparent governance frameworks and solid governing institutions, that is tightly integrated economically and globally at ease and that remains respectful of national traditions and cultural distinctions. All of this seems very optimistic and obviously as in all of life I am sure that you also believe that there are danger areas that could divert or delay Asia from reaching these goals. Could you list in this regard what you see these major danger areas being and what probability you would place on there actually affecting development in the region?
Answer: Major danger areas as we see them:
1) Inertia or inaction. Asians are wise enough to know what is good whether in governance or business. However, the tendency to flow with the present “make-do” situation is compelling, especially in good times. We hope, in part that the economic downturn, can spur Asians to make the changes that are needed. They will be stronger for the recovery.
2) Lack of political will: Our book highlights the ideas of many of the most forward looking regulators and government officials. However, they may often fact treacherous domestic obstacles. The lack of political will to enforce needed change remains perhaps the greatest threat to Asia’s future.
3) The lack of global consensus on issues that impact Asia heavily, such as free trade. Countries such as the US and selected EU members continue to block access to markets, while demanding and increasing list of access rights in developing Asia. Bodies of global consensus need to ensure equal treatment and a level playing field if Asia is to translate stronger frameworks at home into greater economic and commercial security.
Question 11. You travel extensively and talk to many leaders, opinion makers and others throughout the region, is there a particular country you could mention in Asia that you feel at least at this point is best responding to change and responding in a way that shows both vision and leadership. Also, could you explain why you particularly would note this country as a leader or model in this area?
Answer: South Korea is a good example how change can take place. The country was among the most seriously effected countries during the Asian crisis – and was able to deploy vigor and political wish, under a new President, to move on these changes. Now, Korea serves as a role model for its Asian neighbors, especially Japan.
Question 12. Lastly, it seems every time we talk you are traveling to help arrange a new meeting or working on a new project. Can you let us know what additional books you are working on or what projects particularly have engaged your intellectual interest and attention?
Answer: We have another book coming out on the China Business Summit just held in April in Beijing. Structured slightly differently, this book brings together cogent analysis on the major aspects of China’s growth, as well as short statements from policy makers and business leaders.
About the Interviewe:
Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)
Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations. Mr. Runckel is one of only two non-Ambassadors to receive this award in the 200-year history of the U.S. diplomatic service.
Copyright, 2007 © Runckel & Associates
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