Track Topics

Business & the World Economy

Associate: Angel Zhou

Asia’s growth may be the single most important force reshaping the world economy at the start of the 21st century. From a low of 20% in 1950, Asia’s share of global GDP has now risen to 33% and will exceed 40% within a generation if current forecasts are realized. Asia’s growth has placed it at a central position in global economic and financial affairs; the wealth gained from foreign exchange reserves has encouraged trade and economic collaboration among Asian and provided Asia with a global reach that extends its business and influence into some of the world’s farthest corners. In navigating unprecedented economic growth and opportunity, businesses in Asia must confront challenges such as sustainability of growth and an increasing domestic demand by engaging in globalization with innovation and meaningful change to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving environment. This panel will reflect on Asia’s past trajectory, the current trends, as well as explore what the future in the areas of finance, business leadership and global strategy, and innovation entails as Asia’s role in the global economy continues to grow.


Investing in Asia

Given its extraordinary pace of change, modernization and economic growth over the past 20 years, Asia stands poised to become the dominant engine of global economic growth. The benefit of selective investing in Asia has long been recognized by many investors as a component of a diversified global strategy . The region’s development and reform are strong catalysts of economic and corporate growth and profitability in the long term. However, the countries within the region vary greatly in terms of economic development and political stability. How can investors ensure that they participate fully in the potential of Asia, while reducing vulnerability to its risks? This panel explores the emerging economic trends and investments opportunities and risks that are motivating investors to invest in Asia.

Leadership: Adapting to a More Collaborative Economy

A new market shift towards a collaborative economy has impacted nearly every consumer sector of the economy and revolutionized how business is conducted around the world. Near-universal high-speed Internet connectivity, coupled with search technology, allows individual buyers and sellers to find each other. Geolocation technology, based on GPS and mobile devices, have made it easy to coordinate transportation and other services. Societal forces are also propelling the collaborative economy. Growing interest in environmental sustainability have motivated consumers to reduce their environmental impact by reusing and sharing goods rather than acquiring new possessions. How can companies leverage the new societal and economic trends? What global strategies must an effective leader consider in a new, collaboration driven economy?

Innovation: Propelling the Next Generation Forward

Asia stands at the forefront of technology and innovation, which has revolutionized how business is conducted around the world. With ecommerce predicted to reach $1.9 trillion this year, businesses must embrace technological change to remain relevant and competitive. How are companies using technology to transform or create impactful products or services to inspire change, creativity, and collaboration?

Entrepreneurship & Technology

Associate: Veronica Ma

Asia’s rapidly expanding economies, burgeoning middle classes, and increasingly young populations almost invariably cultivate an environment that is primed for entrepreneurial pursuit. General improvements in education, heightened cultural acceptance of the ‘entrepreneur,’ and the lack of big-box retail function as key levers that drive the emergence of startups across regions.

In a tech industry that is at once competitive and open, massive market opportunity is inherent in the growth of smartphone ownership and consumer purchasing power. Indeed, mobile and Internet penetration is integral to such expansion–Southeast Asia’s Internet economy, the fastest growing in the world, is expected to rise to $200 billion in the coming decade. And Asia holistically is projected to account for more than half of global online payment revenues over the next five years.

Inevitably, the industry’s expansion has broad implications for the continent in the smallest and greatest of ways. Despite a lack of access to capital–which at times serves as a barrier to entry for otherwise self-financing startups–entrepreneurship is inextricably bound to job creation and economic growth. Social media channels have fundamentally altered the ways in which businesses engage consumers and market products. And, of course, the role of technology transcends the Asian business realm into the cultural and social arena–where the line between what constitutes progress and what does not, especially from the viewpoint of traditional society, becomes tenuous at best.

How do countries’ legal, social, and political systems promote–and often fail to promote–entrepreneurial risk? In what ways does foreign direct investment (FDI) cultivate opportunities for growth–or equally, in what sense does the lack thereof obstruct it? How is entrepreneurship linked to rising living standards and cultural shifts?


Entrepreneurship for Empowerment

The role of entrepreneurship for empowering, connecting, and teaching is greater than ever. Entrepreneurs with a social emphasis are tackling many issues pertinent to regions of Asia– everything from education and transportation to nutrition and communication. These ambitious innovators come from a variety of backgrounds, but all choose to think in a new way to address age-old problems. How do social enterprises balance profits with purpose? In what way does the entrepreneurial ecosystem impact whether a socially-minded enterprise will flourish or fail? What is the future of this growth?

Technology in Innovation

Technology is causing whole economies to rethink industries and give rise to new ones. This growth engine of innovation is a rising tide that many of the greatest minds in Asia today follow. While tech found much of its early success in Silicon Valley, projects in China, India, South Korea, and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region are rising as well. What determines the boom or bust of a technology start up? How do small enterprises find their way in an industry dominated by giants?  What is in the minds of today’s leading tech innovators and thinkers?

The New Age of Innovation

Modern entrepreneurs innovate in a dynamic environment that is both competitive and largely unexplored. The recent wave of young, energetic creators has brought the world closer together. Innovation has fundamentally changed much of our understanding of what the world is and can be. Investors have played a key role in anticipating and supporting innovation and growth.  What is the long term impact of this growth? How are innovators entering new and unexplored industries? What regions and ideas should investors keep their eyes on?

Environment & Sustainability

Associate: Amy Li

As rapid economic growth continues in Asia, these countries can expect to experience greater and greater environmental demands. Growing populations and increasing development can lead to problems with natural resources, like land degradation, dangerous water quality, and air pollution. Rural areas traditionally used for agricultural purposes are endangered. Arable land is quickly running out, which will prove to be a dangerous situation for subsistence farmers. According to the United Nations, half of the population in Asia will be living in urban areas by 2020, or around 2.3 billion people. These massive hubs of human populations will face issues important to not only the environment’s well-being but also the well-being of humans. Related larger issues like climate change and energy consumption also loom overhead. These countries, and the world at large, will rely on novel solutions founded on cooperation and diplomacy.

These challenges and the direness of the conditions developing Asian countries face are unprecedented. Exploding growth combined with strained resources create complicated and delicate political arenas. So how will Asia innovate in the areas of sustainable farming practices and land use management or restoration? What technologies will be developed or integrated regarding energy production, consumption, and conservation? Are policy makers, NGOs, and governments going to be able to cooperate and develop effective, equitable, and efficient policies for their people? What is especially lacking in the environmental action taking place today?


Sustainable Development in Asia

With a rapidly rising population and ever-expanding modernization, Asia faces many great challenges. Among them, one of the most crucial issues to address is how it will further its development. Following the Paris Climate Agreement (COP 21), the global push for sustainability is both beginning to rise to the forefront and direly necessary. The signatures of 195 countries hold the entire world’s population accountable for environmentally responsible action. Since the Paris Agreement had a unique bottom up approach, its success will hinge on the participation of the people and the societies in which they live. That being said, how will communities, cities, and countries respond to the push for sustainability? In what ways has there been much progress and what is still lacking? Can the world strike a healthy balance between fossil fuels and renewable energy?

The New Wave of Environmental Actors

Environmentalism anywhere is no easy endeavor. In Asia especially, the hurdles are seemingly endless. Unlike developed nations, the economic health of developing countries is more fragile and easier to disrupt. We traditionally consider large-scale action to be the responsibility of governments. However, because climate change and environmentalism is so interdisciplinary and omnipresent, it consequently requires active participation by a host of different actors, ranging from multilateral organizations to NGOs and nonprofits to private enterprise to grassroots campaigns. What measures are these groups taking to further their efforts? How can they influence policy and instate it in the most effective ways possible? What is the best way for individuals (you!) to make a difference?

Innovation and Investment

Presently, it is clear that past and current industrial methods and individual habits are not environmentally sustainable. From consumption to production and every step in between, change is urgently necessary. The magnitude of waste and pollution being emitted is not ecologically viable for future generations. We now look towards innovation, especially in investment, to provide our remedies. Who is at the forefront of developing novel means of saving our planet? What are the latest developments in renewables? Are corporations taking inventive approaches to improving their supply chain and investment strategies?

Governance & Diplomacy

Associate: Grace Pan

Asia’s role in the in the realm of global governance continues to grow in the 21st century. Asia is currently undergoing major transformation, experiencing the world’s fastest economic growth and dramatic changes to its political situation. With this development, leaders must be cognizant of the precedent they set and the consequences that will ensue from their policies. Nations strive to both maintain strong states and encourage robust civil societies. They hope to develop strategic and enduring ties with others nations around the world. Considering these goals, is globalization a positive force for modernization or a threat to sovereignty? How do we avoid miscommunication and conflict in the face of technological advancement? What is the role of local governments and policymakers in dealing with urbanization? To answer these important questions, the Governance and Diplomacy track will explore the topics of globalization in the geopolitical realm, the diplomacy of cybersecurity, and rapid urbanization in parts of Asia.


1) Globalization in the Geopolitical Realm

Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by technology. The consequences of globalization are tremendous, introducing new threats such as energy and environmental concerns, food and water security, migration and organized crime from non-state actors. It shifts the balance of power within a nation and among nations, weakening regional institutions and in some cases expanding the role of the military. Is globalization a positive force for modernization or a threat to national sovereignty? With so much at stake, what drives leaders to plunge into the gamble of globalization?

2) Cybersecurity and Diplomacy

In today’s interconnected world, establishing secure and vibrant cybersecurity is an essential part of our daily lives, economic well-being, and national security. Every time we connect to the Internet, we make choices that impact our cybersecurity. Yet, despite all of its advantages, cyberspace is vulnerable to attack by sophisticated cyber actors, who threaten to steal information and money vital to national infrastructure. How do we continue pushing the boundaries of information dispersion while ensuring that our cybersecurity does not get compromised?

3) The Rising Regionalism, Movement, and Migration in Asia

Asia’s rapid urbanization has led to improved wealth and economic development. The number of people migrating to East Asia’s cities is the equivalent of the size of the world’s sixth largest country. The driving force behind this migration is the hope for a better standard of living, to escape grinding poverty and obtain access to better health care and education. In this transition, policymakers play a vital role in determining land access and ensuring economic efficiencies, while reducing income inequality. Left behind are refugees and those hindered by immigration laws. With cities as the hub for social change, what role do policymakers play in providing transparent government, positive economic output, and public safety?

Health & Social Policy
Associate: Michel Li

As Asian economies continue to rise to the forefront of the global economic landscape, their health and social policies have kept pace to various degrees. With many Asian nations historically having struggled with issues pertaining to population growth, governments have faced problems with constructing effective healthcare, education, and immigration systems. The extent to which countries have struggled with constructing such institutions varies, depending on the population constraint and level of economic development of the country in question. However, even as countries have progressed economically, they have struggled to reform their social institutions. Without an effective healthcare system, through which residents can access healthcare timely and equitably; a good education system, by which youth can gain opportunities for social mobility and define their futures; an effective immigration system enabling residents of disadvantaged regions to pursue opportunities in urban areas, nations will not be able to sustain the rapid economic development they hope to continue to maintain.


Improving Global Healthcare

According to the OECD, life expectancy at birth across 22 Asian countries reached 73.4 years on average in 2012, a gain of about seven years since 1990. In comparison, OECD countries gained 5.3 years during the same period. But a large regional divide persists: the country with the longest life expectancy is Hong Kong, China with 83.3 years for both men and women, whereas eleven other countries had total life expectancies of less than 70 years. What leads to these discrepancies? As governments grow in their investment in healthcare spending, what institutions and systems should they be investing in?

Addressing Modern Inequality and Education Issues in Asia

Primary education is often considered to be the most accurate indicator of economic development. Asian teaching strategies have been portrayed in culture and media as extremely rigorous and rigid, and has received great critique in this way. However, what are actual educational practices? How do institutions such as local/national government, schools, and standardized testing influence the degree of access children of different genders, ethnicities, and regions have to primary education?

Population Growth and Movement Within and Across Borders

As many Asian nations face rapid economic development, their populations are exponentially growing. These leads to various economic, political, and social consequences. In many countries, this has contributed to increasing divides between urban and rural populations, and has forced government regulation in this context. Looking at migration patterns within and between countries, how have and can governments establish migration systems that promote equity without overburdening any given region’s resources?

Humanitarian Affairs

Associate: Archie Hall

Economic changes in Asia have not always been accompanied by corresponding political changes, as state repression of the rights of individuals and groups in many regions increases rather than decreases. In just the past year, the situation for the Rohingya in Burma, those accused of drug crimes in the Philippines and pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, has markedly worsened. Amartya Sen famously wrote that “development is freedom”, and too often in discussions of Asia such undermining of our collective humanitarian commitments are either brushed under the carpet or treated as an unfortunate sideshow to the putatively more significant changes happening in economic or geopolitical terms.

This track would work towards correcting that, identifying not just individual crises worthy of attention or looking to historical precedence for solution, but also developing a broader notion of how humanitarian affairs play into the political, social and economic changes occurring in Asia. This is not just confined to more authoritarian or less-developed countries; the situation in Australia both in terms of asylum seekers and indigenous people has regularly received widespread international condemnation, speaking to a need to reform accompanied by a lack of political will to do so.

Finding Representation in Asia
Over the past few years, questions of representation have come to the foreground in Asia. Representation can takes many forms. While advocates for democracy from Hong Kong to Thailand have battled for representation in political terms, underrepresented groups, from ethnic minorities to women to LGBTQ+ activists, have fought similarly not only on a political but also a social plane. Ensuring that rising living standards are distributed fairly and that all Asians are given an equally significant seat at the table are concerns of paramount importance, and ideas that this panel will explicitly engage with.

Immigration and Displacement
As the world’s eyes have been trained on the refugee crisis playing out in Europe and the Middle East, displacement and discrimination has been occurring on a similar scale in Asia. With the Rohingya community in Burma, this has involved violence and forced migration, yet this is far from the only instance of displacement occurring on the continent. As Australia’s migration policy continues to horrify human rights advocates and internal displacement becomes more of a problem from China to Afghanistan, it is clear that an important discussion must be had on handling these multi-faced crises.

Protecting Justice during Asia’s Transition
As Asia transitions into an economic giant, the rights of those driving such economic growth, from workers on factory floors to farmers in the countryside, are often deprioritized. Yet recent events from the garment factory collapse in Dhaka to the Nobel Peace Prize win of Kailash Satyarthi, whose life has been devoted to eradicating child labour throughout Asia, have shown us that this is still an area of vital importance moving into the future of the Asian continent.