[Sponsored Article] China's recent decision to ease birth restrictions and allow couples to have up to three children has reignited the population debate with a key voice putting forward positive arguments on this crucial issue – long-regarded as a population crisis for the world’s second largest economy. James Liang, executive chairman of Trip.com Group and renowned demographics expert has long sought to bring recognition of China’s population crisis to the fore. Throughout his research and academic career, which began with a PhD in Economics at Stanford University, he has called for the loosening of family planning policies and expansion of state support for young families. The driving narrative behind Mr. Liang’s argument lies in a nation’s need to have a large, well-educated population in order to remain competitive. In China’s case, he argues, it must encourage births through more comprehensive policy changes. In the wake of the policy shift, Mr. Liang seized the opportunity to reassert his message that more is needed. “In order for a country to maintain its innovative capacity, public policies should be designed to ensure the quality, vitality, and size of its workforce into the future,” said Mr. Liang, who is also a research professor of economics at Peking University. “Without intervention, China will have one of the oldest workforces in the world by 2040. China is now in an economically strong position to encourage fertility, and should do so, to ensure that entrepreneurship and innovation do not dwindle over the coming decades,” he added. Mr. Liang is a man who wears many hats, including company founder, demographer, and most recently, a cosplaying live-stream host, as he rolled up his sleeves to boost morale and drive travel sales amid the COVID-19-induced travel slump. It is this attitude and foresight that has guided Mr. Liang over the past 18 months as he steered Trip.com Group through the pandemic. As of 31 December 2020, Trip.com Group's livestream series, led by the "BOSS Live" show fronted by Mr. Liang himself, had presented over 60,000 products and created more than RMB 5 billion in GMV. A global travel group consisting of Trip.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, Qunar and other travel brands, Trip.com Group has been at the forefront of innovation since its founding, and even more so since the pandemic broke. The company has been able to successfully weather the storm precisely through its deep commitment to innovation and its ability to embrace change as a positive economic driver. “Embracing change can be challenging. Change management is difficult and requires a higher strategic mind-set,” says Mr. Liang. “The same principles apply whether its government policy or business strategy. In order to effect change you require buy-in from your stakeholders. To succeed in the most challenging of circumstances you need strong communication to support arguments for innovation.” And the proof is in the results as they say. Trip.com Group has made communicating change and innovation with its partners and customers a top priority. Through initiatives like “Travel On”, Mr. Liang gathered destination, hotel and airline partners to announce a series of safe travel measures and COVID-tailored travel products and giveaways. Working together to stimulate confidence in the market was key, closely followed by the launch of a whole new approach to delivering content online. In 2021, Trip.com Group launched a ‘content ecosystem’ which neatly pivots the traditional purchase dominated platform to a wider and more cohesive content hosting platform. Star Hub, the flagship partner marketing toolkit, was launched in April this year to provide essential marketing support to the company’s partners to drive forward user engagement and leverage pent up demand as COVID restrictions began to relax and domestic travel could begin to rebound. The Group’s positive journey of change continued with the successful listing on Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Mr. Liang negotiated this important milestone for Trip.com Group with his eyes not only domestic recovery but the future of international travel. He said, “We are taking the next step in better serving investors around the world. By being listed in both markets, not only are we strengthening our global market presence to better match our global service offering but many of our customers and suppliers are based in APAC and the wider region, we want to be closer to them and better meet their needs.” China is undoubtedly at the forefront of driving meaningful recovery both domestically and internationally for the travel industry. James Liang’s deep-rooted philosophy to embrace change in all areas of his expertise is fundamental to his success as a respected academic and business leader of a global travel service provider at the top of its game.