Economically, US can talk a good game

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 November, 2011, 12:00am


Southern China, at this moment, is crawling with the great and the good from American business and academic finance.

Edmund Phelps, winner of a Nobel Prize for economics, is in Shenzhen to advise officials on how to develop international expertise and expand the nation's talent pool. Former US Treasury secretary Robert Rubin gave a talk at the JW Marriott in Hong Kong last night on the perils facing the US and global economies.

Meanwhile, John Nash, the mathematician who won a Nobel Prize for economics for his work in game theory, is in town again, for the umpteenth time. Indeed, since the release of the Hollywood blockbuster A Beautiful Mind, Professor Nash seems to have made junket trips to the city an annual ritual.

Another Nobel laureate, Michael Spence, was in Hong Kong last month helping to run the Fung Global Institute, a think tank.

Little wonder. Chinese love to roll out the red carpet, offer first-class tickets and book six-star hotels for such wise men ever so ready to share their wisdom with people from still developing economies.

It does seem a bit strange. Spence and Phelps are expert theoreticians in economic growth, while China actually delivered double-digit growth, year after year, for more than two decades.

Rubin was a senior adviser to Citigroup while it came crashing down and had to be bailed out repeatedly during the financial crisis. As treasury chief, he also presided over financial deregulation widely blamed for triggering the crisis.

The US economy is in the doldrums, but come rain or shine, America is never short of financial gurus. How's that for soft power?