Immigrant Communities Making the World a Smarter Place

Robert Guest, at right, in conversation with Joe Morgan (Asia Society)

by Neha Sakhuja 

On February 23, ASNC and Silicon Valley Bank hosted The Economist Business Editor and author, Robert Guest, to discuss his new book, Borderless Economics: Chinese sea turtles, Indian Fridges and the New Fruits of Global Capitalism. Joe Morgan, Chief Investment Officer for the Silicon Valley Bank Asset Management, joined Mr. Guest as moderator.

Guest provided insights about what makes the modern day immigrant “click” in today’s globalized world, sharing that “the nature of migration has changed profoundly in the past generation due to easy communication and cheap travel.”

Guest explains that globally 215 million first-generation immigrants “are now creating networks which have profound effects for business, economics, science and even politics.”

Discussing the business culture in emerging markets, Guest points out “it is easier if one knows the right people rather than just following the rule of law.” In addition, employing people from the country in which you plan to do business is an added advantage. Almost 70 percent of foreign direct investment in China passes through the overseas Chinese diaspora.

Addressing the reasons the U.S. is a favorite destination for so many immigrants, Guest explains that, “no matter where you come from, you can always find a niche in this country. This is a tremendous comfort for migrants. Workplace is the most integrating part of America and people strive to be part of a culture by learning English and being creative.” This, he suggests, is why the U.S. needs to keep its borders open and tap the powerful global networks that diasporas from all cultures represent.

Guest pointed out that U.S. immigration policies and processes do much more to keep out productive and skilled immigrants than it does to welcome them, and this will ultimately be a detriment to America’s economy and “soft power” if there is no reform.

On what a key take-away from this book might be, Guest stated, “you want to be aware of what you don’t know and bring in people who are aware of how things work in local areas [overseas]. The immigrant perspective is powerful because the immigrant understands both countries.”

To further the discussion on the impact of immigration policy to globally oriented Bay Area companies, ASNC will be co-hosting a panel on the topic this spring. The date and time are to be announced, so be sure you’re signed up for our e-newsletters (see right margin on our blog home)!