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OCT 3, 2007

Dalian Davos Meeting Report, Part 2: The New Champions Gather

By Yoshito Hori

This conference in Dalian is called the “Summer Davos”. The “Winter Davos” is literally held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos in winter, and I have attended it a couple of times. (Refer to “Davos Meeting” columns)

While politicians with a worldwide influence, managers of big corporations, and academia gather for the Winter Davos meeting, Summer Davos is for up-and-coming business leaders, known as the New Champions. For the venues, the Winter Davos is held in Switzerland in Europe, while the Summer Davos seems to be Asian-oriented by design.

This is the first Summer Davos. As a result of China’s aggressive efforts to host the event, it was decided to hold the first Summer Davos in Dalian and then the second conference in Tianjin. It appears that China strongly appealed to the World Economic Forum from the beginning to hold the two Summer Davos meetings consecutively in China.

This means China was successful in getting two Summer Davos meetings, in addition to the Beijing Summer Olympics and Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Unfortunately, it seems that because the Japanese government has not recognized the significance of the Davos meetings or for some other reason, it has shown no interest. I heard that when the East Asia Economic Summit (a regional Davos meeting) was held in Tokyo last year, the Japanese government didn’t cover the cost at all, but the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), a private entity, put up approximately 60 million for the event.

Though South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and India are very enthusiastic about holding these types of events, I feel Japan appears to have been left behind, and I am mortified by this. Since approximately 2,000 influential people from around the world attend, it’s an ideal chance to show off Japan’s allure.

It’s disappointing, but Japanese participants are forced to do battle as the “visiting team” in China. The occasion of a conference like this is where public opinion is formed. Statements addressed in the conference affect the thinking of influential people around world, and countries, companies, and people who make important statements will grab substantial leadership. Holding this kind of conference as the “home team” makes it easier to have a good impact. China understands this significance very well.

In the Summer Davos meeting, people mainly from the following communities are scheduled to gather:

1) Official members of the Davos Meeting: centered on large corporations who have net sales exceeding 500 billion. Currently, there are about 1,000 members. Of this figure, there about 40 Japanese companies, such as NYK Line, Sony Corporation, Mori Building Co., Ltd., and other big corporations. 
2) Global Growth Companies (GGC): a community for managers of rapidly growing medium-size companies. Approximately 100 are elected from around the world. I took part in this Summer Davos Meeting as part of this group. In addition, Oki Matsumoto, president of Monex, Inc., Kenichi Hatori, president of Gulliver International Co., Ltd., Tetsuya Iizuka, president of THine Electronics, Inc., as well as financial companies such as Unison Capital, Inc., Advantage Partners LLP, MKS Partners Ltd, SBI Holdings, Inc., and others are members. 
3) Young Global Leaders (YGL): a community for leaders 40 and under. There are approximately 400 members around the world, and the term is three years. Elected from Japan are politicians Ryuhei Kawada, Keiichiro Asao and the mayor of Yokohama, Hiroshi Nakata, entrepreneur Kohei Takashima, president of Oisix, Inc., conductor Tomomi Nishimoto, Kumi Fujisawa of Sophia Bank. Also, Etsuko Okajima from GLOBIS is a member of this group. :->
4) Other Communities: People who have been elected as social entrepreneurs and technology pioneers.
5) Other Invitees: Mainly politicians, scholars, entrepreneurs, journalists, and artists. From Japan, Heizo Takenaka, Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Special Advisor to the Cabinet, Professor Yoko Ishikura, Graduate School of Hitotsubashi University, and others were invited as scholars in this group. Yoichi Funabashi of the Asahi Shimbun and others were invited as journalists, however, to my disappointment, few Japanese politicians came.

At the Summer Davos meeting, there were more participants from the 2nd to 5th groups than at the Winter meeting, so relatively younger people made up the majority. In short, up-and-coming business leaders are the primary participants at the Summer Davos held in Asia, while the older leaders, large companies, and politicians mainly attend Winter Davos, held in Davos. This is how the two conferences appeared to be differentiated.

Summer Davos started the evening of September 5. That night, I was invited to the dinner as a member of GGC. It’s a great honor to be able to participate in this event hosted by Klaus Schwab, founder of the Davos meetings.

The person sitting next to me founded AirArabia, a discount airline with Dubai as the hub. I heard that his company was profitable in the first fiscal year, and went public in the fourth fiscal year. I could closely feel global trends while dining with such people. I decided to aggressively network with many participants.

From September 6, the Summer Davos meeting officially started. I had breakfast with the head of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at the hotel. Since many people had gathered from all around the world for this conference, it is the ideal occasion to have informal meetings.

After that, we moved to the main venue by bus. As I looked out the bus window, I saw that the city was well prepared. At construction sites, large banners saying, “We Wish for a Successful Summer Davos Meeting” were displayed and signs reading, “We Enthusiastically Welcome the Summer Davos Meeting” were on the top part of taxi rear windows. I could understand well that the entire city was trying to support the conference.

There was not so much traffic. It seems that cars which had odd-numbered license plates could travel on certain days while vehicles with even-numbered license plates could travel on other days. For this reason, only half of the regular traffic could travel on this day, so we arrived at the venue relatively smoothly.

The conference was held at the Dalian World Expo Center located in Xinghai Square, a huge park. It was an extraordinarily huge place. After finishing registration, we went up large escalators to the second floor. When entering the main hall, the main session, with our Heizo Takenaka participating, had already started.

It was a welcome sight to see a Japanese speaker in the main session like this. Mr. Takenaka spoke eagerly in fluent English.

And then break-out sessions were held. The first one I participated in was “Innovation Heat Map,” a closed workshop lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was similar to a GLOBIS class, with a general discussion, explanation of the purpose, then discussions in small groups, and finally a discussion with all participants.

Lunchtime was a venture capital session. I found GLOBIS Fund investors who were also participating there. After lunch, I exchanged opinions with participants in a large lounge. Since there were so many people, it was great fun to exchange information among them.

From 3 pm, there was a discussion involving Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. I headed to the venue a little early and decided to take a seat in the middle of the front row to listen to his talk. It was held in a style of dialogue with Mr. Schwab via interpreter. After that, there was Q&A time, so I raised my hand immediately, but wasn’t chosen. Too bad.

As Heizo Takenaka participated in this session, we decided to have tea afterwards. Since he is very busy, it is difficult to spend time with him like this in Japan. But this is a Davos meeting, so I had the nerve to exchange opinions about politics and other things with him for about an hour. :->

UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed was scheduled to make a speech, so I headed to the venue to listen. I remembered being very inspired after hearing his speech at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Jordan. He alone is virtually responsible for the current prosperity of Dubai. Perhaps he is the equivalent to Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore.

In the evening, there was a soirée. The dinner started with a speech by the mayor of Dalian. The person sitting next to me was the former Canadian ambassador to Japan who is currently the ambassador to China. It was very meaningful to hear the differences between Japan and China from the viewpoint of an ambassador.

After dinner, there was a two-hour performance on the stage. It was a performance full of eagerness to show everything that China has to offer: singing, dancing, opera, acrobats, acrobatic bicycle riding, trapeze artists, a circus, a hand play, kung fu, and finally a Peking opera. I could feel the enthusiasm and seriousness from the performers on the stage who wanted to show good things about China.

This may symbolize the current enthusiasm in China. Everyone wants to show the positive side of China. When I questioned the volunteer students who were helping with the meeting, they unanimously answered that they offered their services for free for this meeting, hoping people around the world would get to know the good qualities that China possesses.

After the soirée, I took a bus back to the hotel. To cool down after all this excitement from the conference, I decided to take long shower and go to bed.

October 2, 2007
Nibancho Office
Yoshito Hori