Nearly 500 alumni and guests gathered in Hong Kong for the Pan-Asian Reunion on October 24-25. “The atmosphere was very warm and friendly,” said Woo Taik Kim ’72, president of the South Korea Alumni Club and a panel sponsor, who attended the weekend event. Faculty panels on topics ranging from healthcare to private equity were held in addition to the reunion dinner. The faculty and panelists received substantial coverage in the local news. A few highlights of the event:

Global Economy

Speaking at a press conference, Dean Glenn Hubbard said that the candidate who wins next week’s presidential election must be prepared to immediately begin work with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and not wait for the start of term in January 2009. He also discussed how the strength or weakness of a recession in the U.S. would affect China. From China Daily, on October 22:

The Asian economies, especially the Chinese economy, will be negatively affected in a U.S. recession environment because they relied heavily on export growth, [Hubbard] said.

"When I was here last winter, the fashionable discussions had all been the decoupling of the Asian economies from the United States, and that nothing happens in the United States is relevant for Asia. Of course, it was never, and is not, true," said Hubbard, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisors under Bush in 2001-2003.

Hubbard said China needs to rely more on domestic consumption in order for China to sustain a healthier economic growth.

Prof. Shang-Jin Wei, who moderated the panel “Asia: From a Major Investment Destination to a Rising Source of Capital,” also offered his view on the on the financial crisis. In an interview with 21st Century Business Herald on October 25, he discussed the safety of the U.S. dollar and said:

Most people have underestimated the global extent of the financial crisis. The crisis facing European countries is no less serious than the one facing the U.S. South Korea is also facing a crisis of similar degree to the one in the U.S. In times of financial turmoil, the U.S. dollar is often a more stable currency and USD-denominated assets are relatively more stable.

Private Equity

The “Private Equity and the Capital Markets” panel on October 24 with Paul Calello ’87, Russell L. Carson ’67 and Henry R. Kravis ’69, and moderated by Prof. Bruce Greenwald was very well attended. Prof. Greenwald discussed his thoughts on private equity before the conference with Asian Venture Capital Journal:

“What private equity is really about is the efficiency of using resources,” [Greenwald] observes of Asia’s export-oriented economies, especially China. “As they exhaust their availability of labor, and the demographics shift to undermine labor supply, then all of a sudden, the ability of people with expertise to come in, usually in cooperation with local institutions, and squeeze a lot more productivity out of existing resources is going to become very important.”

Tokyo’s Lesson

Heizo Takenaka, Japan’s former economy minister, was part of the “Asian Financial Centers: Activities and Aspirations” panel moderated by Prof. Hugh Patrick on October 25. He spoke with the Financial Times afterward and discussed lessons learned from Japanese crisis (watch video). He said:

What is needed is activism by the government, policy activism, and a symbol of that is an injection of capital. In that sense the U.S. government is moving in that direction … But it’s not enough and [in Japan] the crisis continued for four years or so … because we didn’t have accurate asset assessment. First, accurate asset assessment is needed and then capital injection is needed. … This is a very important lesson from Tokyo.