Addressing Asian concerns; mediating issues among emerging Asian economies—this is the purpose of the Boao Forum for Asia. This has been the forum's goal since its inception a decade ago. Zhou Wenzhong, Secretary General of the BFA and former Ambassador to the United States, wants the forum's prominence to grow several-fold in the coming years. Before leaving for this year's BFA in south China's Hainan Province, Zhou answered questions from Beijing Review reporter Ding Zhitao about the BFA's development and influence on Asian economic integration and emerging economies. Edited excerpts follow:
Beijing Review: The BFA enjoys widespread influence not only in Asia, but around the world. How would you describe this growth over the past 10 years?
Zhou Wenzhong: The BFA was founded under the belief that Asia has traditionally had a weaker voice in the international business arena, especially since there was no forum that focused specifically on Asian issues.
We are delighted to see that the BFA has made progress in the past decade, growing into one of the major international economic forums with the rising economic power of Asia. Every year, more than 1,500 world state leaders and business leaders gather in Boao to share their opinions, which become the greatest influence on the global economy.
The BFA is also a platform for dialogues between governmental leaders, business leaders, economists and media organs, as well as a window through which Asia can be known better by the rest of the world.
The BFA has been around for a decade now, so what is new about the forum this year?
The BFA has grown from a concept from three Asian politicians to one of the world's major economic forums in the past decade. Since 2002, distinguished participants meet in Boao every April. Their candid and in-depth discussions on major issues in Asia have generated fresh ideas to guide policy-making and ensuing actions. As a top-level dialogue platform in Asia, Boao has earned increasing recognition in recent years.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the forum, so naturally there are a few new features—a new council, more world-class participants, more interaction and more seminars and dialogue.
Nine new councilors were elected in April 2010 to join a more broadly representative council composed of members from Asian countries including China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as non-Asian countries such as the United States, France and Russia for the first time. The new members are mostly senior politicians and business leaders. Yasuo Fukuda, newly appointed council chairman and former Prime Minister of Japan, will lead a delegation of Japanese business leaders to attend the BFA and hold a session—Rediscover the Growth Potential of Japan. Japan's active participation this year is important to the BFA's further development, especially after Indian cabinet ministers and entrepreneurs made their debut at Boao last year.
World-class entrepreneurs who have confirmed their attendance this year include Akio Mimura, Chairman of Nippon Steel Corp.; John Mack, Chairman of Morgan Stanley; Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart; Atsutoshi Nishida, President of Toshiba Corp.; Shoei Utsuda, President of Mitsui & Co.; Carlos Gutierrez, Vice President of Citigroup; Leif Johansson, President and CEO of Volvo Corp.; Frederico Curado, President of Varig Brazilian; R. Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director of Tata Group; Jaspal Singh Bindra, Executive Director of Standard Chartered Bank; and Gerry Grimstone, Chairman of Standard Life.
The BFA is very interactive. With the exception of the opening conference, all sessions are held in the form of dialogues to encourage debate and communication among participants—heads of states, CEOs or economists—on an equal basis. We plan to do the same this year.
In addition, more seminars and dialogue will be held to be devoted to specific topics and professions. Besides traditional youth leader roundtables, roundtables for multinational corporations' China CEOs, ministerial breakfast meetings, and roundtables for entrepreneurs across the Taiwan Straits, the BFA will include new roundtables for private entrepreneurs and breakfast meetings on medical reform.