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A New Form of Leadership In An Age of Disruption

Conference on leading in an age of disruption celebrates 20 years of Kellogg-HKUST EMBA

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 12:08pm

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As part of the events and celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA Program, on 8 July, more than 300 business leaders, faculty and program alumni gathered for a special “Leadership in an Age of Disruption” conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. The fact that over one third of those in attendance flew in from around the world for the occasion underscores the esteem this EMBA, and the strong connection the Program maintains with the world.

Sharing their thoughts on the constantly evolving range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s generation of leaders were a number of eminent speakers. The Guest of Honor was Mrs Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Government.

In her address, Mrs Lam pointed out that, despite being a relatively young university, over the years HKUST has risen to the top 50 in the world, and this recognition is a source of pride to Hongkongers. The Kellogg-HKUST EMBA Program, repeatedly ranked No.1 in the world by the Financial Times, was a particularly illustrious success story, she said.

In his welcoming remarks to the conference, Professor Shyy Wei, President of HKUST (from 1 September 2018), thanked all the Business School deans who had played key roles in the development of the Program. Mr Andrew Liao, Chairman of the Council, HKUST, in his opening remarks praised the fruitfulness of the collaboration between the Business School and the Kellogg School of Management.

The two current deans of the partner schools spoke next, with Professor Tam Kar Yan, Dean of HKUST Business School, introducing the speakers who would be addressing the conference, including five distinguished alumni. Professor Sally Blount, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management, took a moment to reflect on the contribution of the late Professor Don Jacobs, her school’s former dean and the founder of the Kellogg EMBA global network.

Timely topic for discussion

The conference took on a highly topical subject on the next day after the US imposed the first wave of tariffs on Chinese goods. Professor Justin Lin, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and now Dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, made his presentation “Trump Economics and the US-Trade Imbalance”. In his talk, he set out the reasons, or perhaps the lack of reason, behind President Donald Trump’s decision to fire the opening shots in a trade war.

“Yesterday [8 July 2018] he imposed 25 per cent tariffs on US$34 billion of imports from China,” Professor Lin noted, adding that the same rate on a further US$16 billion worth of goods to be imposed, and put together, would be the largest trade sanctions in human history.

The US President was also imposing new tariffs on trade with countries who are the traditional allies of the US, as well as a small country in Africa such as Rwanda. “But certainly China is the main target,” he said.

China first enjoyed a surplus in its trade with America in 1985, and by 2016, before Trump took office, the value of the surplus was US$340 billion, he pointed out. Last year, this figure grew to US$375 billion. Professor Lin traced the roots of this widening gap all the way back to 1971. “I think the reason for this was the end of the US dollar’s gold peg,” he said.

Rising real estate prices, and higher consumer spending, followed this move, and sucked in imports. Unless Trump came to understand that the way to reduce the US trade deficit was to increase levels of consumer saving, the trade war would only worsen the US trade deficit, Professor Lin suggested.

He was then joined on stage by Dr Vincent Lo, Chairman of Shui On Holdings and of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, for a discussion on the topic. Their conversation was moderated by Professor K C Chan, Adjunct Professor and Senior Adviser to Dean of HKUST Business School, and Hong Kong’s former Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.

Dr Lo talked about his business dealings with Donald Trump in the 1990s and commented that the trade war was just a precursor to other struggles.

Professor Chan picked up on this, and raised Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan, which aims to move its economy up the global value chain. “Is the American right wing right to be worried about Chinese technological supremacy?” he asked.

“China certainly wants to upgrade its technology and industries so as to becoming a high income country, but I think this is a legitimate goal for any country,” Professor Lin responded.

One way China could protect itself in a trade war, Dr Lo suggested, was by realizing its “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Insights into other subjects

Laughs at the conference were provided principally by Kellogg’s Professor Karl Schmedders whose presentation on “Big Data: Hype and Disruption” combined humor with insights into the risks of accepting data analysis at face value.

At noon, the audience had a choice of simultaneous sessions. In his presentation, Mr John Wood, a KH alumnus and Founder of Room to Read, a non-profit focused on children’s education, explained how a business with a purpose to make the world a better place has a competitive advantage. In another session, Professor Hui Kai Lung, from HKUST’s Department of Information Systems, Business Statistics and Operations Management, shed light on “Blockchain and Its Impact”.

The conference also featured the presentations made by five distinguished KH alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their professions and industries, to the Program, and to their communities. They were each presented with a “Distinguished Alumni Award” on the occasion.

Wrapping up proceedings, Professor Steven Dekrey, the EMBA’s Founding Director and now Associate Dean of HKUST Business School, reflected on how far the Program, the Business School and the whole of HKUST had come in the past 20 years. To a hearty round of applause, he also offered his thanks to the EMBA Program Director Ms Judy Au, who has worked behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the Program for 19 of those 20 years.