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OCT 11, 2007

Dalian Davos Meeting Report, Part 4: Forecasting a Course for the Future

By Yoshito Hori

My last day at Summer Davos began with a swim, my first in a while. Until then, I had breakfast appointments with world-wide leaders almost every morning. But I had no morning appointments today, so I was able to relax somewhat.

Refreshed, I took a bus to the World Expo Center. Due to tight security, taking a taxi to the venue required being dropped off at the entrance of the park where the event was being held, and then having to walk for about ten minutes. Therefore, participants had no choice but to take a bus to the site.

As a result, people were always talking with each other on the bus. I used this travel time for “bilateral chats” with the person sitting next to me. One of the GLOBIS Fund investors was on the bus this morning, so I decided to sit next to him for a talk. I felt very lucky because I had been thinking about making an appointment with this person for bilateral meeting.

After arriving at the venue, I made a beeline for a specific break-out session. Word-of-mouth from participants who had actually attended this session drew many others, making it a popular event that everyone wanted to attend. If I didn’t get there early, I wouldn’t be able to participate.

I arrived at the room at 9:45 am, 15 minutes before the start time, and just got in. Only one other person after me got in. “First-come, first-served” can be applied anywhere.

This session was called, “A Dialog in the Dark,” and it was an experience-based session. It made participants aware of the importance of communication capabilities and senses they don’t usually use by providing an experience of adapting and learning to communicate with each other when forced into darkness.

The session was divided into two parts. We spent the first hour and a half in the dark. For the next hour, we went back into a lighted room and discussed what we had experienced. True to the strength of its reputation, this session provided an entirely deeper experience than regular ones.
Note: This event has been held in Japan as well. Please refer to Dialog in the Dark.

After lunch, I took part in a session with astronauts that started at 2:00 pm. As a rule, I push myself to participate in sessions that are completely outside of my field at conferences such as the Davos meetings. This is how I try to broaden my horizons.

That’s why I chose the session with astronauts. In this event, we listened to retired NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger. He spent several months on board the Russian space station Mir and was the first American to conduct a spacewalk from a foreign space station. This was a more typical session, with a presentation followed by Q&A.

The most impressive story was a conversation between Jerry and his father. During the Q&A someone asked, “I heard that astronauts sometimes have mystical experiences in outer space. How about you?” Jerry answered, “I had a sense that I could see my father again for a moment in outer space.” He then began talking about his father.

When Jerry was 14 years old, he had lightheartedly told his father that he would be an astronaut one day. His father had encouraged him, saying, “Son, if you try hard, you can surely be an astronaut.” Buttressed by these words, Jerry studied hard and built up his physical strength. More than twenty years later, he fulfilled his dream by becoming an astronaut.

His father had already passed away before Jerry was aboard Mir. However, he definitely sensed his father’s presence outside the spacecraft window while exercising on a treadmill. He was moved to tears as he described this experience.

The audience broke out in spontaneous applause.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” If you believe in your potential, do everything you can, and it will all come true. I also cannot help but believe in the power of the words, “You can do it.” As a father and an educator, the weight of these words reached deep into my heart.

This session with the astronauts completed my planned schedule at Summer Davos. Reflecting on this conference that evening, I recalled the things that had most impressed me.

1) First of all, I was impressed by the strong presence of newly emerging countries and regions, including Russia, India, the Middle East, and Brazil. 
Of course, China, the host country, had the most visible presence; however, I directly felt that up-and-coming leaders were rising up from newly emerging countries. The world is moving at a tremendous speed. I could sense a complete shift, from a dominant America, or the era of developed countries centered on the G8, to a multi-polar world.

2) On the other hand, Western countries still stood out in voicing their opinions. There were a variety of themes, such as China, newly emerging countries, the environment, innovation, and others. Like Japan, France, Germany, and others were not the focal points of discussion. However, these countries (France, Germany, etc.) demonstrated their presence by making remarks. After all, Westerners tend to aggressively speak up. Even though there were roughly 80 Japanese participants, they didn’t say very much. If you don’t speak up, you don’t make a contribution; in other words, you don’t exist. So I want to be sure to actively express my opinions.    

3) China’s seriousness and the set-back of reforms in Japan also stood out for me.
I felt that China was correctly implementing the things that need to be done. I was also overwhelmed by China’s seriousness and eagerness to hold this conference. Unfortunately, on the other hand, Japan lacks the vigor of the Koizumi reform era. With the bashing of successful entrepreneurs, the finger-pointing of the media, the lack of will to reform among cabinet members, and policies of opposition parties that appear to be moving toward “big government,” I can’t feel as positive about Japan.

I thought, as a Japanese citizen, I would seriously think about what is necessary for Japan. Is it time for me, like Shafik in Egypt, to launch some new endeavor, beyond the framework of business if necessary? I was beginning to think about a direction for the future.

I was scheduled to return to Narita on an afternoon flight the next day, but I didn’t want to waste the short time I had in the morning. I then contacted an interpreter guide who had taken me to Lushun and 203 Meter Hill my first day of this trip and decided to look around the Dalian Economic and Technological Development Zone (DETDZ) the next morning.

At 8:00 am the next day, the guide and driver arrived to pick me up at the hotel. We loaded my luggage in the trunk and headed to DETDZ.

This development zone is a new city that was established in 1984. Its initial vision was to serve as the home to four industrial bases: petrochemicals, equipment manufacturing, electronic information/software, and ship building. Of the 2,200 companies set up here, 580 are Japanese, including giants like Canon, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba, and Seiko, among others.

A total of 220,000 people live in this zone, and when neighboring areas are included, there are 600,000 people. Connected by monorail to Dalian city center, this zone alone is dozens of times larger than Makuhari Messe. Despite that, to my surprise, Dalian is just the eighth largest city in China and is not regarded as an upper tier Chinese city.

Passing through the DETDZ, we headed to Golden Pebble Beach facing the Yellow Sea. I got out of the car and lightly touched the sea water. It was relatively warm. Along the beach, well-built people, looking like Russians, stood out as they sunbathed among the Chinese.

I also dropped by Golden Rock Park where fantastically shaped rocks formed 600 million years ago had been excavated. I was especially impressed by the fact that these rocks had been formed 600 million years ago.

According to the guide, a fortune teller with a reputation for very accurate predictions was nearby. When we had arrived, as it was early in the morning, the fortune teller had not come yet, but when we returned, the oracle was there.

I generally don’t go to fortune tellers because I don’t want to be overly influenced by their predictions. As far as I can remember, I went to a fortune teller just once, when I started GLOBIS.

Nevertheless, still fired up by my experiences at Summer Davos up until the day before, I decided to hear about what the future might hold for me. I hadn’t done anything like this for 15 years.

I won’t share what the fortune teller told me, since it’s a private matter.
However, I felt the day was approaching for me to take action on behalf of Japan, Asia, and the world beyond the framework of business and education.

October 3, 2007        
At home
Yoshito Hori