Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Asian Leadership Conference 2013

For its 4th Asian Leadership Conference, Chosun Ilbo gathered an impressive line-up of power hitters around the theme "Asia's Next Challenge: Good Growth and Smart Welfare" (see agenda and program below*).

The simple fact that organizers sped up the process - the previous editions were held in 2005, 2008, and 2012 - tells a lot about the success and the relevance of the event. And this time, there was almost a vintage G8 flavor as a collection of former heads of state joined the usual mix of CEOs, gurus, innovators, and scholars.

But the point was not to impress with hard power. Yes, there was at times testosterone in the air (thank you Jim), but even in this male dominated environment and even in these sabre-rattling times, a clear consensus emerged on the need to emphasize on collaboration vs competition, and on the evidence that empowering women was as the most efficient way of reviving at the same time economies, societies, and politics across the region and beyond.

I couldn't resist, instants before the opening ceremony, taking this "Power to the Women (Fleur Power?)" picture, where even French deputy minister Fleur PELLERIN seems overshadowed in this "man's world":


Fleur Pellerin


Random memos 1 - Special mentions and special thanks

Of course, in this kind of events, you can't expect all 150 speakers to deliver life changing speeches, but there were good moments, particularly when heavyweight moderators went out of their way to spur the debate.

So I'll start with a special mention to Sir Martin SORRELL (WPP) and Jim CLANCY (CNN):


Sir Martin Sorrell
Studious Sir Martin
  • The Ad Man - who proved he could negociate more airtime - forced the former PM of Netherlands to declare his personal views about where the UK should stand vs the EU (better in than out, but only if the UK accepts full membership). I also enjoyed his no-nonsensical lecture later in the day: SORRELL may not be the most inspiring and visionary leader, he may have too financial a focus for my taste, but he has an acute sense of strategy, he always keeps an eye on the big picture, and he knows how to map his environment. The kind of CEOs who won't panic behind the wheel in times of trouble, and who doesn't consider his 165,000 employee company as a supertanker. When I asked him if it the challenge was not greater now that technologies, know-hows, and business models evolve constantly, he answered that it was much easier for a big company.
Jim Clancy
Battling Jim CLANCY just left the ring: danced like an elephant, stung like a rhino, roared like a lion, won by K.O.

  • The Anchorman - who proved he could boost an audience - roared like a lion each time a debater tried to dodge certain questions that are not often asked in public in Korea ("So tell me: those Korean chaebols, are they too big to fail or too big to jail?").
I must also give special thanks to Tarja HALONEN and Steve CHEN:

  • Since we were seating next to each other, I could enjoy a short one-on-one chat with the former President of Finland about European and Asian politics. I wish all top politicians were as kind, modest and straightforward on stage and backstage.


Tarja Halonen
HALONEN was smiling on every other picture I took, but you don't reach 88% approval rates just because you're a nice person: ever the activist, she also knows how to fight for ideals





  • Note that in general, the atmosphere was very friendly and open, not just thanks to gurus who make a living out of it (Google's very friendly "Jolly Good Fellow" Chade Meng TAN, or the more money-driven coach Marshall GOLDSMITH).

Random memos 2 - To Change? Yes, but you don't kick habits that easily

It was all about the end of ideology, the need for pragmatism, openness, sustainable approaches... and yet a few die-hard ideologues kept playing the same old tunes. The audience didn't seem to mind: judging by their conversations as well as by their votes on the brand new Galaxy tablets offered by the organizers, visitors seemed mainly conservative. Except, at the other end of the spectrum, a male Lee Jung-hee who made everybody laugh with his more than passionate interventions from the floor.

I don't know how many times Adam Smith was quoted over the two days, but even the 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in economics couldn't find a more recent reference to justify his opposition to government intervention in the youth unemployment crisis. At least Thomas SARGENT reminded the audience that Smith himself would have been revolted by the excesses and total lack of ethics in today's capitalism. For SARGENT, unemployment is a natural situation, and regulations artificially pollute this perfect environment that only needs time to adjust. Unfortunately, he was only opposed by Gunther SCHMID, who rolled out without much passion his usual pitch on transitional labor markets. The moderator himself seemed more in a lecturing than an animating mood.

The audience was still recovering from Battling Jim CLANCY's victory by K.O. in the previous bout: "Chaebol: to regulate or not?", featured Raffi AMIT (author of 's WSJ piece "Korea's Costly War on Conglomerates") and JWA Sung-hu (Korea University, author of "The evolution of large corporations in korea") in the "deregulation" team, and JANG Ha-sung (SNU, ever the corporate crusader) and Yishay YAFEH (Hebrew University, author of "Business Groups and Risk Sharing around the World") on the "pro-regulation" side.

AMIT all but disclosed the names of his sponsors in a textbook defense of chaebols started by the usual "don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs". I do think that Korean conglomerates invested massively in innovation and jobs at the right moment, and that they should be praised for that, but when AMIT noted that chaebols grew more than the rest after the crisis, he forgot to mention that precisely, they sucked way too much value out of the market, phagocytizing new fields they had no business venturing into. Smaller players usually do the bulk of the job in times of crisis, and even in good times, SMEs create 40 jobs with USD 10 M compared to 10 for chaebols.

JWA believes that SMEs have the same chances as chaebols to grow into big fishes, and that the only things that block this perfect system are critics from the outside. He says "we don't need government regulation but stronger competitors", but we can't achieve the latter without the former. In a soft-spoken yet implacable prosecution speech, YAFEH pointed out the fundamental flaws of the system, the collusion, the regulatory capture also achieved by mass hirings of former regulators and judges (at which point CLANCY mentioned the usual "Republic of Samsung" - "chaebols become the government" arguments)... and the indecence of it all: when to intervene?"It's like pornography: you know it when you see it". JANG Ha-sung delivered hard facts, figures, and punches, showing pervasive subsidiary charts. He also drew a comparison with a small village: if a farmer behaved like that, controling the whole value chain from the land and fertilizers to the retailers, what do you believe other villagers would think of him?

NB: images work even better when you actually draw what you're talking about, and Peter SCHREYER did just that during his lecture. Kia-Hyundai's Chief Design Officer drew us a plane, but no lamb. He positions Hyundai as a fluid water drop, and Kia as a more architectural snow flake... which doesn't leave much to competitors (vaporized?).

Random memos 3 - A few pieces of advice to Park Geun-hye

Direct advice to the new president:
. From Dominic BARTON: the first year is key, be aggressive, promote vocational jobs like Germany, make them more highly regarded and better paid
. From John RICE: focus on infrastructure and immigration to draw foreign investors, promote transnational collaboration.
. From Tarja HALONEN: keep your promises, say what your predecessor did well, try to avoir situations where people are unhappy, talk to female students and empower them, strengthten bridges between universities and enterprises, train students for self-entrepreneurship
. From Jan Peter BALKENENDE: new deal between chaebols and SMEs, have chaebols be evaluated by their partners like Unilever does, look for values (happiness is not just wellness), work on innovation and trust
. From Albert KOCH: go for restructuration, let the private sector take care of business (NB: and if you want a long term vision, don't listen to people like me who make a living out of turnarounds)

Advice to Korean leaders and managers in general:
. From Martin SORRELL: don't forget internal communication, explain strategic changes internally, don't let financial procurement claim too much power, doing good is good business.
. From Charles DUHIGG: acknowledge complaints, learn from them, teach life skills, turn willpower into training and positive habits
. From Peter SCHREYER: no guts no glory, the biggest risk is to take no risks
. From Steve CHEN: measure your risks, but if you want to go far, you have to take the plunge, opportunities never last long
. From Chade Meng TAN: don't pursuit happiness, it's already there, kindness is powerful.
. From Marshall GOLDSMITH: thank people for telling you the truth, don't let other people's craziness become your own, don't say "I'll be happy when" - be happy now
. ...

Random memos 4 - The Northeast Asian Reshuffle

This conference wasn't meant as a political tribune, but Michael Powell confirmed the messages he previously delivered to the press. The former Secretary of State hammered that the days the North Korean regime could scare everybody at no cost were over, that THEY should be scared now, and that the time had come to show positive and constructive attitudes. Kevin RUDD, a connoisseur of Chinese arcanes, confirmed that the days China forgave every provocation from the North were over, that the country wanted to be respected as a diplomatic force, and that para-imperialism (ie Northeast Project - "Hanschluss") was putting security at stake. For China, having this unruly regime at the door is much worse than having the US at the door.
 
 
Colin Powell and Kevin Rudd
 
 
It may not show on his face, but former Foreign Minister HAN Sung-joo is very happy that the KOR-US partnership is stronger than ever, that China is evolving in the right direction, and that the rest of the world is unanimously condemning North Korea's dangerous antics.
 
 
HAN Sung-joo
 
 
Yasuo FUKUDA failed as a Prime Minister because he promoted pragmatism, reconciliation in the region, environmental reforms, and "worst of all", because he didn't play the ultra-nationalist game - his surprise resignation, not even one year into the job, happened just weeks after his refusal to visit the infamous Yasukuni shrine. FUKUDA remains the peaceful and soft spoken moderate leader Japan needs right now, and he already succeeded Shinzo ABE once... but this time, he's really too old.
 
Yasuo Fukuda
 
 
She's the first female president of her country, she's the daughter of a president who ruled with a strong fist, but also carried major reforms... but Megawati SUKARNOPUTRI didn't achieve much else, and at the ALC, she embarrassed the audience by refusing to be treated as a non-keynote speaker, and by reading texts from daddy SUKARNO. Definitely not a model to follow for PARK Geun-hye.
 
Megawati Sukarnoputri
 
A few portraits to wrap it up:
 
Bang Sang-hoon
Chosun Ilbo CEO BANG Sang-hoon, a perfect host


JUNG Hong-won
The kind and not so charismatic new Prime Minister, JUNG Hong-won


Fleur Pellerin
Fleur PELLERIN again. She may be a fellow French citizen and a fellow ESSEC alumni, I must say I expected something more than her standard sales pitch for FDI in France


Jan Peter Balkenende
Former PM Jan Peter BALKENENDE (Netherlands) has learned the importance of being Ernst and Young, but we did share a laugh after his speech.

Looking forward to the next edition, I presume next year.


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* 4th Asian Leadership Conference, the Agenda:
  • Agenda 1: Asia as the Next Solution
  • Agenda 2: Shaping Asia's New Paradigm - Korea's Case
  • Agenda 3: Paths To Good Growth
  • Agenda 4: Future of the Asian Century
The Program:

SESSIONS DAY 1:

Opening Ceremony:
. BANG Sang-hoon (Chosun Ilbo CEO)
. JUNG Hong-won (Prime Minister of South Korea)

Session 1: Challenges and Tasks of New Asian Leadership
Moderator: Martin SORRELL (CEO, WPP Group)
. Tarja HALONEN (Former President of Finland)
. Fleur PELLERIN (Cabinet Minister of France)
. Megawati SOEKARNOPUTRI (Former President of Indonesia)
. Yasuo FUKUDA (Former Prime Minister of Japan)
. Colin POWELL (Former Secretary of State of the United States)
. Jan Peter BALKENENDE (Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands)
. Kevin RUDD (Former Prime Minister of Australia)

Session 2: Diplomatic Strategy for Peace and Prosperity in Northeast Asia
Moderator: Zeb ECKERT (Reporter, Bloomberg TV)
. Colin POWELL (Former Secretary of State of the United States)
. Kevin RUDD (Former Prime Minister of Australia)
. Sung Joo HAN (Former Foreign Minister of Korea)

Session 3: How to Design Korea’s New Normal
Moderator: Jong Nam OH (Professor, Seoul National University)
. Tarja HALONEN (Former President of Finland)
. Jan Peter BALKENENDE (Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands)
. Dominic BARTON (Global Managing Director, McKinsey and Company)
. John RICE (Vice Chairman, GE)
. Albert KOCH (Vice Chairman and Managing Director, AlixPartners)

Session 4: Chaebol, to Regulate or Not?
Moderator: Jim CLANCY (Anchor, CNN)
. Raphael AMIT (Professor, Wharton School of Business)
. Yishay YAFEH (Dean of School of Business Administration, Hebrew University)
. Hasung JANG (Professor, Korea University)
. Sung Hee JWA (Former Professor, Seoul National University)

Session 5: Youth Unemployment: Can Government Solve it?
Moderator: Dong Sung CHO (Professor, Seoul National University)
. Thomas SARGENT (2011 laureate, Nobel Prize in Economics)
. Gunther SCHMID (Professor Emeritus, WZB - Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fur Sozialforschung, Freie Universitat Berlin)

LECTURES DAY 1:

. Steve CHEN (Co-founder, YouTube): chat over lunch
. Martin SORRELL (CEO, WPP Group): ‘Global Insights and Branding'
. Shigetaka KOMORI (Chairman and CEO, FUJIFILM Holdings Corporation): ‘Winner of the Digital Age’ - moderated by Ji Pyeong LEE (Senior Research Fellow, LG Economic Research Institute)
. John RICE (Vice Chairman, GE): ‘The Global Innovator’ - moderated by Sunny YI (Partner, Bain and Company Korea)
. Hary TANOESOEDIBJO (President and CEO, MNC Group): ‘The Media Mogul of Indonesia’
. Yigal ERLICH (Founder and Managing Partner, The Yozma Group): ‘Father of the Start-up Nation’

SESSIONS DAY 2:

Special speech:
. Jan Peter BALKENENDE (Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands)
. Je-yoon SHIN (Chairman of the Financial Services Commission)

Session 6: Finance and the Good Society
Moderator: Zeb ECKERT (Reporter, Bloomberg TV)
. Douglas FLINT (Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings plc)
. David RUBENSTEIN (Co-founder and Co-CEO, Carlyle Group)
. Ronald O'HANLEY (President of Asset Mgt. and Corporate Services, Fidelity)
. Kwang-woo JUN (Chairman and CEO, National Pension Service of Korea)

Session 7: Job-boosting Entrepreneurship
Moderator: Jaeyoung LEE (Congressman of National Assembly, Saenuri Party)
. Steve CHEN (Co-founder, YouTube)
. Brad HUNSTABLE (Founder and CEO, Ustream)
. Suk-Chae LEE (CEO, KT)
. Yigal ERLICH (Founder and Managing Partner, The Yozma Group)

Session 8: Economic Cooperation beyond Regional Conflicts
Moderator: Yung Chul PARK (Professor, Korea University)
. Kiyohiko NISHIMURA (Former Deputy Governor, Bank of Japan)
. Fan HE (Deputy Director, IWEP)
. Barry BOSWORTH (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution)

Session 9: The Future of Xi Jinping's Economic Reform
Moderator: Duck-Koo CHUNG (Chairman, NEAR Foundation)
. Barry EICHENGREEN (Professor of Economics and Political Science, UC Berkeley)
. Yongding YU (Former Director-General, IWEP)

Session 10: Smart Ways to Good Growth
Moderator: Jihyun Julianne LEE (CEO, Julianne Lee and Company)
. Christian LOUCQ (Director General, International Vaccine Institute)
. Masahiro KAWAI (Dean and CEO, Asian Development Bank Institute)
. Kamal AHMAD (Founder, Asian University for Women)
. Ho-Seung YANG (Chairman, World Vision Korea)

LECTURES DAY 2:

. Charles DUHIGG (Reporter, New York Times, Author of ‘The Power of Habit’): 'Habits That Change the World'
. Peter SCHREYER (Chief Design Officer, Hyundai Motor Group): 'The Legendary Car Designer'
. Chade Meng TAN (Jolly Good Fellow, Google, Author of ‘Search Inside Yourself’): ‘The Most Popular Fellow of Google’ - moderated by Jihyun Julianne LEE (CEO of Julianne Lee and Company)
. Bing XIANG (Dean, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business): 'Mentor of the Chinese CEOs'
. Marshall GOLDSMITH (Leadership thinker, Author of ‘Mojo’): 'Guru of the positive attitude'
. Albert KOCH (Vice Chairman and Managing Director, AlixPartners): 'The Art of Corporate Turnaround'
. Heyi XU (Chairman, Beijing Automotive Group), and
 Jianwei ZHANG (President, Sinotrans Limited): 'Special Session with Chinese CEOs' - moderated by Sungjoon PARK (Visiting Professor, Incheon National University)

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