Track Topics

Business & the World Economy

Track Description

Asia has emerged as the economic powerhouse of the world, taking advantage of its robust domestic demand, booming population, and technological advances to position itself at the forefront of economic growth and innovation. Globalization has enabled Asia to battle its crippling poverty rate and strengthen its local businesses. But as our world has increasingly embraced globalization, countries around the world have become wary of its ramifications, resolving to pursue more protectionist policy. Furthermore, the defining characteristics of a top modern business have embodied a change in business strategy over time — and one area in particular that businesses have increasingly prioritized is human resources, focusing primarily on cultivating a positive work environment.

In this track, we will hear from renowned business leaders, academics, and policymakers to analyze the evolution of the world economy and the way in which businesses have strategically realigned themselves, focusing particularly on the role that Asia plays in fostering economic development.  


The Free Trade Debate: The Clash Between Globalization and Protectionism

Free trade has unquestionably empowered countries to exploit their competitive advantages and expand economically. Yet to what extent should countries rely on the rest of the world? Grappling with this question, our ever-globalized world has recently witnessed a surge in protectionism as countries decide to pursue less open policy. The traditional bastions of globalization have tottered, casting doubts on the merits of free trade. Britain’s unexpected withdrawal from the European Union stemmed from a concern that lax immigration laws and burdensome multinational regulations were infringing on British sovereignty. Across the pond, the election of Trump — who fervently denounced agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Accord — signaled a growing uncertainty amongst American voters about the benefits of free trade. Countries like Canada, France, and India, on the other hand, have ostensibly continued to embrace globalization. This panel will explore how globalization and protectionism have shaped the way our world is today, and what we should expect to see in the near future.

The Recipe for Success: Prioritizing Human Resources

Human resources lies at the heart of any businesses. After all, if the workers aren’t excited to work, the business is doomed. The efficiency wage theory proposes that workers should be paid more than the equilibrium wage, so as to incentivize them to be more productive. But as businesses have learned, it’s not just the salary that matters to workers. The overall work environment must be supportive, comfortable, and conducive to growth. We’ve seen businesses make a concentrated effort to redesign their corporate culture — offices are adopting less formal dress codes and revamping the aesthetics of their offices. One of the most notable examples is Google, whose lax culture is characterized by its Lego Rooms, pet-friendly policy, and free gourmet cafeterias. Human resources, of course, can be costly — but companies are nevertheless looking to invest more money and effort into shaping their company environments and keeping their workers happy. This panel will explore how businesses have come to rethink human resources — and, more importantly, why businesses care so much about their corporate culture.

Associate: Akash Bagaria

Entrepreneurship & Technology

Track Description

Entrepreneurs face radically different conditions trying to grow businesses in emerging Asian economies compared to those in the developed world. Emerging economies are often characterized by under-developed and missing institutions, and strict governmental regulation.

Labor market intermediaries, for example, which are often taken for granted in the developing world are often poorly developed or overall missing in Asia. Promoting an attitude of disruptive innovation often can have polarizing effects on a country’s economy. Entrepreneurs must circumnavigate a complex maze of different networks to recruit talent efficiently and often end up repackaging ideas already present in the developed world and adapt them to work in a less-developed world. This track will focus on these issues in the context of the rising innovations hubs in biotechnology and healthcare, and access to funding in global entrepreneurial markets.


Healthcare in Asia: A Growing Hub in Innovation

The majority of the world’s population is concentrated within the Asia-Pacific region. Access to a quality health care, especially modern medical technologies, is currently limited for many patients. With the emergence of new medical technologies and a profound gap in access to those technologies, companies and entrepreneurs are looking for new ways to capitalize on the increasing demand for healthcare in the Asia-Pacific region. A recent report by McKinsey suggested that the medical technologies market in Asia is projected to rise from about $88 billion a year in 2015 to a staggering $133 billion a year by 2020. This trend highlights a geographic shift in where and how medical technology innovations are created and how they are brought to market. For example, Singapore has become one of the world’s biggest hubs in medical technology innovation, despite having a relatively small population and market size. This panel explores how medical technology companies in Asia are expanding while faced with limited resources and many non-homogenous markets. How does this expansion of healthcare conflict with the interests of the government and currently established systems? What is the dynamic between established organizations and regional entrepreneurs?

Navigating Funding In Asia

A vital part of creating a startup involves securing funding. Many Asian countries, such as Singapore and India, have made recent moves to greatly increase the amount and accessibility of funding available for entrepreneurs. Raising a business, in any environment, requires an immense amount of energy, and this panel hopes to address how the process for funding varies between Asia and the western world. Current trends show that, in Asia, venture capital fundraising is headed for a landmark year. This panel will discuss how early-stage financing is impacting Asian businesses, as well as the impact the growing influence of Asia has had in the world of private equity. How does the process for securing funding differ in Asia vs the US? How does it differ region to region, and how do cultural values shape the VC landscape?

Associate: Milan Bhandari

Environment & Sustainability

Track Description

Modern approaches to resolving environmental issues revolve around two central themes: first, the inherent belief in technology to outpace the global growth in consumption and population; second, a movement towards being more mindful of individual consumptive practices – specifically, in the area of food consumption. These efforts have neither stymied nor slowed the destruction of the environment, nor has overall consumption been limited to a sustainable amount.

In this track, we will investigate each of the modern environmental trends, and examine if current solutions are effective at curbing consumption patterns and/or ecological footprint. Each of these issues presents myriad and interwoven problems that intersect politics, economics, and sociology.


Veganism and Agriculture: Consumptive Sustainability

One of the hottest trends in modern years, the move towards “green agriculture” – veganism, local and organic farming, and vegetarianism – marks a sharp contrast to previous decades’ consumption of mass-produced agriculture and livestock. However, there are three main obstacles to veganism: first, individuals’ preference for animal-produced food products; second, the prohibitive costs associated with eco-friendly eating; and third, the inherent skepticism in the efficacy of individual choices in effecting such a global phenomenon. Here, we will examine the difficulties but potential for “green agriculture” to curb our ecological footprint.

Energy and Efficiency: Clean Technological Sustainability

Everyone looks to technology as the solution to environmental degradation. No matter what environmental problem, humans look to technology, whether that be energy efficiency technologies (autonomous cars, electric vehicles), clean energy technologies (renewables, nuclear), or biological technologies (ecosystem management). However, despite exponential development in the technology sector, emissions and consumption appear to be growing at an even faster pace. Here, we will discuss the limitations and potential for technology to save the earth.

Associate: Ryan Jiang

Governance & Diplomacy

Track Description

Twenty years ago, experts cited that the biggest weakness in the Asia-Pacific region was the lack of multinational forums dedicated to resolving regional disputes. Today, a multitude of forums exist, and yet conflicts abound. The influence of countries in this region on the international stage is becoming increasingly strong, arising in ever more precarious territorial, military, and technological disputes. With the presence of increasingly powerful weapons, potential conflicts are becoming more dangerous. How do we resolve conflicts between understandably self-interested countries?  How should the international community approach any possible conflicts?  In this track we will be focusing on two aspects: cybersecurity and regional conflict.


Cybersecurity:  Balancing Technology and Vulnerability

Technology is a tool that allows for unprecedented communication and access to information. However, with advances in technology comes the concomitant use of technology as a dangerous weapon. Crippling attacks can be initiated from thousands of miles away and recent events have suggested that perhaps the manipulation of information is the most crippling type of attack of them all. And with the increasing ambitions of countries, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overlooked. In this panel, we will be discussing approaches to improving cybersecurity across the region. What role does the international community play in legislating and enforcing cybersecurity laws? How do we advance technology while keep country assets secure?

Geopolitics: Globalism, Regionalism, and Nuclear Tensions

Although conflict has always existed among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, massive economic growth has led to an increase in their geopolitical ambitions and ability to pursue those ambitions. This means that countries are taking more drastic military and political measures. And as a result of increasing nationalist and anti-globalist sentiment, securing diplomatic relations is becoming evermore important. This discussion warrants increasing attention particularly in light of recent developments in countries’ nuclear programs. In this panel, we will discuss the power dynamics between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the best way to pursue peace and security. How do we minimize conflict between burgeoning powers? What role does the international community play in these affairs? How effective is current nuclear policy, and what should be the next steps going forward?

Associate: Raymond Hu

Health & Social Policy

Track Description

In the last few decades, economies of Asian-Pacific countries have grown at an unprecedented rate. According to the 2017 World Bank figures, the Asia-Pacific region now has four of the world’s 12 largest economies: Japan, China, India, and South Korea. In the midst of this major progress, more countries have entered the global scheme, and the living quality of citizens on average has greatly improved. While the Industrial Revolution in Europe and United States lasted over a century, Asian-Pacific countries are transforming in just a matter of decades. However, just as the Industrial Revolution brought along new innovations that streamlined lives, yet simultaneously heightened inequalities in living conditions and health issues, governments across the Asia-Pacific now face similar challenges to resolve for its over 4.5 billion citizens.

In this track, we will undertake the challenges of medicine and water sanitation through examination of the conflicting perspectives and potential solutions.


The Dilemma Between Modern and Traditional Medicine

All medicine is toxic, yet at acceptable doses, it can cure serious illnesses. Although modern medicine has risen to popularity, traditional medicine continues to thrive. Despite having proven itself to be effective, traditional medicine has a questionable safety profile due to the ingredients of the medicine, largely derived from herbs, are largely unknown due to the difficulty of conducting a toxicity test. On the other hand, modern medicine ensures safety and efficacy by following the rigid process of selecting promising compounds, running animal tests, and conducting clinical trials before finally releasing the drug into markets. This panel will address the increasing controversy with traditional medicine, and seek to find a balance between modern and traditional medicine.

The Crisis of Water Sanitation

According to a WHO report from 2015, nearly 1.7 billion people in the Asia and Pacific region do not have access to improved drinking water and sanitation. Clean water is a basic right that should be accessible to everyone. However, at what cost does providing clean water come at? Nearly every Asia-Pacific country has introduced private management or has considered it as a potential solution. Since 2006, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have actively promoted big water companies in the region, but there has been backlash from nearly every community where privatization has been implemented. Some argue for privatization of water to increase efficiency and service quality, whereas others contend that water is a public good. This panel will bring together diverse perspectives to explore the methods currently in place, and propose potential policies that could be implemented.

Associate: Jessica Tian

Humanitarian Affairs

Track Description

Asian states have faced a barrage of humanitarian crises in the modern era, from natural disasters and famine to civil conflicts and internal displacement.  During these crises, most governments have provided immediate relief, such as clean water, food and clothing, to the people affected by these disasters and have pledged long-term aid, like rebuilding destroyed infrastructure.  In addition, the number of humanitarian groups has grown dramatically, supplying more initial relief for victims and often working in tandem with governments.  In this Humanitarian Affairs track,  we examine how governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) respond initially to humanitarian crises in Asia, and explore how aid can be provided to ensure a successful recovery in the long term.


Evaluating the Initial Response to Humanitarian Crises

Over the past few decades, Asia has been struck by a series of natural disasters, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2011 Japanese earthquake.  In addition, armed conflict and government instability persist in several Asian nations, and these crises have resulted in the deaths of millions of people and displaced millions more from their homes.  Often, nations’ most poor and vulnerable members bear the brunt of these calamities and lack access to necessities such as healthcare, clean water, food and shelter.  Governments and humanitarian groups then step in to provide immediate relief and ensure the wellbeing of as many victims as possible.  But how effective are governments and NGOs at administering this aid and ensuring that it goes to the people who need it?  What are the challenges in supplying relief to disaster areas?  How often are certain crises overlooked or ignored by nations and aid agencies?  This panel will assess how governments and NGOs currently respond to humanitarian crises in Asia in the short-term and will consider strategies to improve relief efforts in the future.

Rebuilding and Recovery: How to Administer Long Term Aid after a Disaster

After initial relief efforts conclude, the victims of humanitarian crises are left to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.  This process can take decades and billions of dollars.  In 2016 alone, two earthquakes in Japan created $31 billion worth of damage, while floods that struck China produced $20 billion in losses.  The communities affected by these disasters need long term aid in order to fully recover, but there is debate over what form it should take, where it should come from and who should administer it.  How much of a role should foreign businesses, other countries and/or humanitarian aid groups play in the process?  Which projects, such as restoring homes, infrastructure or schools, should be prioritized?  Who will ensure that aid money is used effectively, without inefficiencies or corruption?  This panel will examine which forms of long term aid most effectively help in the recovery process and how aid should be administered.

Associate: Ian McGregor