HE WAS like a latter day Horace Greeley, the man who told his fellow New Yorkers to ''Go West'' in search of fame and fortune. In issuing his clarion call to America's money men, Barton Biggs put the granite-grey seal of the Wall Street establishment on the new economic frontier. China had come of age in the mind of Wall Street. Local brokerages may chide they have long told the China story, but it took Morgan Stanley's chief global strategist to provide the wake-up call the really serious money was waiting for. ''Tuned in, overfed and maximum bullish,'' was the way he told it after an eight-day turn through China. And he wasn't just talking about his constitution. It was a call that echoed that of another American: Timothy Leary, whose ''Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out'' unleashed a wave of fervour of a different kind back in the 1960s. Hong Kong, the surrogate for capital seeking a part of the story, was marked up for a two per cent weighting in the Morgan Stanley global portfolio. Investors duly obliged, sending the Hang Seng Index into a dizzy spin above the 9,000 level. Barton Biggs likes China. Defying the rising chorus of pessimism from the would-be Cassandras, he told the managers of the world's biggest investment funds what they wanted to know: against the odds, China would achieve its soft economic landing, and nowwas the time to invest. Two weeks on, the man who has come to resemble the Ross Perot of investment banking, with his sound bite delivery, remains a China bull. In an interview from his New York office, the former US marine told Sunday Money: ''I started out on the trip with a fair degree of scepticism but you have to immerse yourself in the country. ''Sometimes you get very positive vibrations, sometimes very negative. You can't force them, you have to let them flow.'' As to his newly found stardom, Mr Biggs seemed unfazed if a little incredulous. ''Just doing the job,'' he said. Dismissive of local criticism that he was just a gung-ho American with an unruly self-confidence, he said: ''I'm not a China specialist and I've never purported to be. ''My approach is to look at the world as a whole, whereas locals tend to get exclusively involved with their own market, and frequently miss the big picture.'' Marc Faber, investment adviser and local iconoclast, who has known Mr Biggs for four years, said: ''Maybe he's not a China expert but he knows as much as anybody else.'' Mr Biggs revealed: ''I've always worked by the rule that when the locals go bearish, that's the time to move in.'' Unable to comment on the short-term prospects for the Hong Kong market due to Morgan Stanley's involvement in a number of underwriting issues, Mr Biggs confined himself to China's economic future. ''Travelling around, I saw all the indications of the Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia success stories of the early 80s.'' Securities and Futures Commission regulations aside, it would seem Morgan Stanley remains optimistic on the market's short-term future, being big buyers of futures contracts in Friday's trading. Yet who exactly is this man, who wandered into town a fortnight back and personally triggered the biggest ever rise in the value of Hong Kong stocks? Sitting at the helm of Morgan Stanley's global investment strategy, Mr Biggs gets asked the really big questions, and gives the really big answers. Continents and countries are his field of reference when advising the custodians of the world's savings where to put their money. A colleague described him as ''the overall imperial leader of Morgan Stanley's global strategy''. Born in 1932 to a well-to-do New York family, Mr Biggs was mapped out to make his mark: Yale, followed by the United States Marine Corps, where stationed in Okinawa he made the rank of lieutenant. Following his father into a finance career, he joined Morgan Stanley, becoming a full partner by the age of 41. He founded Morgan Stanley Asset Management in 1975 and has been named as a strategist to Institutional Investor magazine's All American Team 10 times. One investment manager in Hong Kong said: ''His understanding of emerging markets has made him an enormously rich man. When this guy kicks ass, the flies know about it.'' AN AVID tennis player and mountain climber, who has scaled Kilimanjaro in his time, it is a standing office joke that only fitness fanatics survive in the emerging markets department. Jack Wadsworth, long-time friend, colleague, and now managing director of Morgan Stanley Asia, said: ''Barton is not your typical Morgan Stanley partner. There is something of the maverick in him. ''His writing frequently takes on a life of its own, but that is why investment managers love to read him.'' And of Mr Biggs' ''tell it like it is'' tendency, he said: ''Having lunch with Barton is like having lunch with a journalist. Nothing is off the record.'' Given his purple prose, it comes as no surprise to find he started out his working life as a journalist. Scratching around for a job after departing the marines, he joined the Washington Star newspaper. Lasting only three months, he said: ''I just got fed up making coffee for reporters.'' So what does an investment analyst, who picks countries rather than stocks, look for when issuing a buy recommendation? When the market was at its silliest last week, Hong Kong traders reported hysterical US buyers saying ''buy . . . buy anything''. They were buying a hunch from the best tipster they knew. Mr Biggs said: ''I look for virtuous circles in economic policy. Once in the circle, countries tend to develop tremendous momentum. ''Conversely, a country like Brazil, which is in a vicious circle, develops huge negative momentum which is very difficult to get out of.'' That nothing breeds success like success was in evidence by the 20 chief executive officers from the US and Europe who also made the China pilgrimage. The group of fund managers who tagged along behind were estimated to have been in control of an investment war chest stuffed with US$400 billion. That the Hong Kong dollar exchange rate peg was almost swept away under the onslaught of only a fraction of this money indicates the pure muscle Mr Biggs' Wall Street chums carry. Yet, wanting to keep a lid on the image of storm-trooping American investors buying a piece of the action in Asia's booming East, Mr Biggs described as ''ridiculous'' the fact that only six per cent of their funds are invested outside the US. However, he reckoned there had been a quantum change in attitude since he was cutting his teeth on the emerging markets of Southeast Asia back in the 1970s and early 80s. Of the latest wave of US investment to be directed at China and Hong Kong, he said: ''Make no mistake, this is for real. This is no fad.'' So, having hit 61, what next? Mr Wadsworth said: ''He's probably the only investment analyst around capable of writing a truly great novel.'' Mr Biggs poured scorn on that idea, but there is no doubt that his words have carved an indelible mark on Hong Kong's collective mind. The Barton Biggs coup de theatre of October 1993 will be forgotten in a hurry - at least not by those who were overweight in blue chips a couple of weeks back. For a town that lionises its money men like no other, they haven't come much bigger than Barton M. Biggs. Asked whether he believed individuals could fashion history or were just actors on the stage, he said: ''Absolutely they do, absolutely.''