EVENT RECAP: Business of Asia | Observations on China

with Dr Ian Thomas

L-R Al Donald, Partner, Hebert Smith Freehills, Ian Thomas, guest speaker, Sue Gilchrist, Regional managing partner, Asia and Australia, Herbert Smith Freehills and Doug Ferguson, Chairman Asia Society Australia

Asia Society Australia recently had the pleasure of hosting Dr Ian Thomas, former CEO of Boeing Australia and Boeing China and now CEO of Thomas Global Ventures at a small luncheon briefing. Hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills, the roundtable brought together a collection of Asia Society members, old and new to talk China. 

Conversation ranged from new normal growth, anti-corruption campaigning and regional tensions to Brexit and the Trump phenomenon. Dr Thomas expertly taking us with him on a journey through his observations on China and its place in the region and on the world stage.

Financial market and economic reform
Dr Thomas began his briefing with an update on transparency and efficiency in the Chinese Financial Markets and how this would influence the changing nature of the Chinese economy, particularly with a shift toward consumption and services. Noting a need and a desire for a clean-up of the shadow banking system, a clean out under-preforming SOE’s and increased convertibility of the Yuan.

Innovation nation
Thomas highlighted the changing innovation environment in China, as policy focuses on innovation as driver for efficiencies and productivity and ultimately, China’s economic development. 
 (Those remarks built on Professor Bruce McKern’s observations on innovation in China, made at an Asia Society Australia event last month see here).

Environmental sustainability
From innovation to sustainability, Thomas touched on the societal implications of pollution in China and noted the huge business opportunities arising from a pressing need to develop environmentally sustainable solutions domestically. He also noted a trend towards exporting heavy emitting, infrastructure industries via the one belt one road initiative. More on One Belt One Road here.

Regional tensions
Looking at China in its regional context, issues arising from the dispute in the South China Sea were explored in terms of their political and economic impact, with discussion of a possible solution being sought both regionally and bilaterally. The capabilities of states to build genuine understanding and cooperation in this context was Thomas’ tip as an essential element to a solution or diffusion. (More on the South China Sea dispute with Asia Society Australia CEO Philipp Ivanov here.)

Taking flight
As an aviation industry veteran, Thomas was able to comment on Chinese aviation and the role of China in the industry. He cited level of investment in planes and airports inside China, as well as financial backing for the purchase of planes by foreign companies as a growing trend and highlighted their attractiveness as an asset for Chinese investors. Dr Thomas also provided his forecast for China’s space exploration in the future, and how this could be seen as a reflection of China's ambition as a rising power.

Questions ranged as broadly as the conversation, covering off the South China Sea dispute, a possible Chinese debt crisis, Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign (Have you seen our interactive map? View it here), the need for transparency for to secure Asia’s future as a hub for financial services and a Donald Trump reality check, What would US China relations look like under a Trump POTUS?

This event was run under our Business of Asia program, which aims to connect our members with leaders of some of Australia and Asia’s major enterprises, who share unique insights on their companies’ successes and challenges in the Asian Century.

This event was generously sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills.

For more information on upcoming events, visit here or contact programaustralia@asiasociety.org  

Prepared by James Levy