On February 27, 2007, the Asian Business Association hosted a panel discussion on business opportunities in Asia. The panel featured mostly Columbia Business School alumni who are industry professionals in countries across the region. They included Mr. Rishav Gupta ’04, senior vice president of Aleutian Capital Partners, a private equity firm that has led buyouts of technology and healthcare companies in India; Ms. Henny Sender, senior special writer for the Wall Street Journal, who was formerly based in Hong Kong; Jonathan Lipton ’04, vice president of GSC Partners, overseeing the expansion of a real estate fund in China; and Gregory Wang ’05, director and head of the China group in investment banking at Cantor Fitzgerald. The panel was moderated by Douglas Guthrie, professor of management and organizations at the NYU Stern School of Business.
Much of the panel’s discussion focused on China. Professor Guthrie opened his remarks by declaring himself very bullish on China, calling the country’s growth the most exciting set of economic changes in the last 100 years, if not in history. He praised China's leadership for its single-party capitalist system, which has produced superior economic results. “Say what you will about the human rights record,” he said, “but they have really done great things with the economy.” About 60–65 percent of the economy is now privately owned, a figure that is not too far short of Europe’s. The similar growth of India and the smaller so-called Asian Tigers presents many still-undiscovered opportunities for synergy.
The sustainability of China’s expansion is of primary concern to investors. Mr. Gupta expressed concern that China could face a shortage of skilled workers that could hamper growth, while Mr. Lipton warned of volatility from the prospect of 400 million underemployed rural workers who are expected to migrate to China's big cities in the next 15 years. 200 million have moved to cities since 1990. According to Mr. Wang, China's bubble might have burst by now if it were a market economy, but the government's skillful management has tempered overheating. Ms. Sender pointed out that the government has guided China through “quality growth,” as most of its GDP growth is grounded in strong infrastructure investment.