I STARTED writing a column for this newspaper on September 7, 1986, bravely forecasting that the Hang Seng index would break through the 2,000 barrier during the next year. Just before the 1987 crash, having run a model portfolio that was theoretically up over 1,000 per cent, I said the Hong Kong market had another year of bull market to run. Wrong, but undaunted by the crash and with the Hong Kong market back below 2,000, I began to write of the growing relationship with China that would transform the Hong Kong economy and stock market. The theme was recognised two years ago when this series of articles was renamed China Focus. Laughed at over the years and considered mad by many, we still put increasing percentages of clients' money into Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia, selling almost completely out of Tokyo, New York and Europe. This blinkered approach based on macro political, economic and value analysis produced great returns. Reflecting our confidence, CEF started a Hong Kong Warrant Trust, still the only one in existence, which soared in value. Now, 366 newspaper articles later, the Hong Kong stock market has risen over five times in value because of China, with H-shares leading B-shares onwards and upwards. The days of my lone optimistic voice are over, with latter day converts forecasting Hong Kong as the largest stock market in the world by the time of Deng Xiaoping's 112th birthday. It must be time to hand over my pen. China will obviously become the world's largest economy soon enough and therefore will eventually contain the world's largest stock market . . . nothing clever in that prediction. American and Japanese institutions will happily pay over 20 times earnings for any consistently fast-growing Asian market. They will have to, as Thais, Chinese, Indonesians and Malaysians become more wealthy and increasingly become buyers of their own shares. The competition for ownership of a stake in Asia's growth miracle will become still more fierce. Price-earnings ratios will be driven further upward. I think foreign funds are here to stay now. The rest of the globe is too dull, economically, and just does not save as much or work as hard as we do in Asia. Eventually, the prudent will have difficulty finding a good reason to buy shares in North America or Europe. The emerging markets of the Far East have done just that - emerged - to become the most important centrepiece of any sensible investor's portfolio. Duncan Mount is a director of The China Fund and managing director of CEF Investment Management Limited which may have an interest in and/or hold positions in securities mentioned above.