International Leaders Forum - 
in East Asia

Shanghai, Hangzhou and Wuhan
April 19-23, 2004


Download this interactive registration form by clicking the button above and return it to us by e-mail to:  
or fax to: 1-847-441-6193

Click button below for details on the extended trip to Tibet: 


Jan Oksum from Norway biking through local neighborhoods  


Conversations with migrant workers in a small private enterprise 


Considering the implications of WTO with a group of Business Leaders from Hangzhou

The Healthcare Challenge  in China. Participants meet leaders in hospitals who are applying both western and traditional Chinese medicine

Informal conversations with High School students provide a lens to China's future workforce


Conversations with a Tea planter/entrepreneur and his family about their growing tea enterprise and the challenges of doing business in China

Daily markets - where information is exchanged and purchases made, provide first hand conversations with local farmers and vendors about how China is changing


Informal conversations with Managers of Foreign enterprises in China provide insight into the challenges and opportunities of business and life in the region


See examples of past International Forum programs in the region by accessing those Agenda Books:


See a list of people who have been involved with the International Forum in East Asia as well as a selection of articles and readings:

See Photos of past International Forums in China by clicking on the Photo Gallery button

Since 1994, The International Forum has been in China creating experiences for Leaders.  This Leaders Forum in 2004 is about China and the East Asian region and its relationship with the rest of the world.  It's unique feature is that it takes participants to witness first-hand the changes taking place in China and enables them to relate that to what they know or have already heard about China.

It is an on-the-ground experience which combines the rich content of The International Forum and its resource people in a week long encounter with people where they live and work  - including: entrepreneurs, local company managers of foreign enterprises, doctors, teachers, students, village and town officials, artists, musicians, workers in State Owned Enterprises and those leading social initiatives.

This Traveling Forum is also an opportunity to learn from many different leaders (from many different cultures) and to share insights on some of the issues each faces professionally and personally in their role as leader.

It integrates history, art and culture with the economic, social and political agenda topics and looks at China and the region from this perspective.

This Forum will cover such themes as:

bulletHow what is happening in China and East Asia will affect the the rest of the world and the choices we make at a personal and professional level
bulletDifferent approaches to the challenges of leading a global company in the region
bulletA greater understanding of our own values, institutions and organizations by learning with others from around the world
bulletPersonal leadership development and preparation for dealing with enormous change and uncertainty.


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The Program begins in Shanghai early on the morning of April 19 and travels to Hangzhou in neighboring Zhejiang province.  From there it moves to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, in the center of China on the Yangtze River. The program ends after dinner on April 23.  For those not continuing on to Tibet, the Forum will return to Shanghai on the morning of April 24 in order to make connecting flights elsewhere.


April 19 - 20:  Shanghai

In Shanghai, participants meet with business leaders and employees of foreign (American, German, French, Singaporean, Korean and Japanese) companies operating in China.  It is an opportunity to learn face-to-face from people who have led organizations in China for at least the past 10 years and who have immersed themselves in Chinese culture.  Their wealth of experience and insight provide a lens through which one can view some of the many changes taking place in China today.  Young people from all over China have come to find work in Shanghai.  Discussions with them reveal aspirations, frustrations, hopes and insight into China's future.

Shanghai experiences all the benefits and challenges of an exploding urban center.  Meetings with people in hospitals, schools, social service organizations and the arts give participants insight into the changes taking place in the urban societies and the challenges facing education, healthcare, the elderly and the migrant population.

As the gateway to China and the city traditionally reserved for foreigners, Shanghai also provides the right setting to consider China's relationship with the region and the rest of the world.  Of particular interest is its changing relationship with the US and what the possible scenarios for this might be for the future.  China's domestic challenges including an aging population and rising unemployment as well as its increased need for energy sources will be discussed with experts and people involved with these issues on a day to day basis.


April 21-22: Hangzhou

Hangzhou, once the capital of the Southern Song dynasty, today is the site of one of China's best universities and hot bed for many of China's new entrepreneurs.  The city provides an opportunity to experience China's growing "private" sector through meetings in companies with young entrepreneurs involved in software and technology development.  Participants will speak directly with young business owners who have begun to expand globally in search of new ideas and markets.  The "private sector" is also dominated by companies who have been transformed from state owned or town and village enterprises to semi private companies.  Participants will meet with two leaders who have taken old and inefficient state companies and turned them around to now compete globally in manufacturing and retail.

Discussion with employees of some of these companies provides insight into management philosophies, approaches to creativity and an insatiable appetite to learn and to succeed.

This city also provides an opportunity to explore the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, particularly in combination with Western medicine.  The principles of balance in life and health are discussed and experienced as participants have the opportunity to receive medical diagnoses  and counseling from experienced doctors and pharmacists.


April 23: Wuhan

Considered to be at the center of China, where the Hanshui River meets the Yangtze River, it is the largest inland port in the middle section of the Yangtze and a major stop on the Beijing-Guangzhou railway.  It is also part of China's "go west" initiative to bring economic development further into the interior.  Surrounded on all sides by rich farmland, the city is slowly taking over rural areas as it expands and develops.

In Wuhan we meet with Chinese and foreign firms from biotechnology to automobiles.  University students from all over China come to Wuhan to study at one of the 47 universities in this city and will speak frankly with us about their job prospects, their home towns and their views on China and its future.

Wuhan is home to many treasures in particular a collection of Bronze bells and musical instruments from the the Warring States period (482-221 BC).  Viewed as part of the mandate of heaven, music played a key role in the moral development of the gentleman's character.  The order established in music was presumed to be a model of Heaven's perfect harmony.  The twelve note non-tempered scale that was created in China in 400BC is both a scientific and artistic wonder.  Participants discover the secrets of this era not well known to many in the West.  

The city also provides the site for a discussion of the ancient thought leader, Confucius, and how what he wrote over 2,000 years ago still has relevance to understanding China and Chinese culture today.

The villages surrounding Wuhan provide insight into China's changing rural landscape and the social challenges brought about by China's economic reform.  How displaced farmers are finding alternate sources of livelihood and what their hopes are for their children are shared in informal talks with them.

Participants will meet the owner and employees of a small machine and die shop in the center of Wuhan, which hires laborers from surrounding villages and produces plastic components for export.

These face-to-face encounters with people from all parts of Chinese society, economy and leadership will be considered in an individual and group project for presentation and discussion on the final evening of the Forum.

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Why China?

We have selected China as the site for this next Leaders Forum for these reasons: 

The Significance of the Greater China Economy

bulletIt has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world and it is now the sixth largest trading nation and third largest economy after the US and EU (adjusted for purchasing power parity)
bulletIt is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (at $50 billion inbound investment this year, surpassing the US for the first time) and has 9.6% of the world's exports and growing.
bulletIts membership in the WTO has signaled new opportunities for foreign investment and changes in the old rules and restrictions
bullet400,000 mainland Chinese studied overseas in the past 2 decades and 140,000 have returned home
bullet500,000 Chinese from Taiwan have now moved to mainland China and it is now Taiwan's biggest export market (surpassing the US)
bulletMore than 100,000 South Koreans live and work in China in cities like Qindao and Tianjin
bulletThousands of Japanese companies are now located in China to access labor, markets and other inputs

China has been the least affected so far by the slowdown in the world economy as it has its own strong internal market, which remains attractive, although somewhat enigmatic and allusive to foreign business.

Unique and Shared Challenges and Risks:

There are growing issues with China’s success including both political and social challenges. 

China's re-emerging Civil Society and the Social Challenges:

bulletAs the dismantling of the state owned enterprise continues and with it the social safety net - what is emerging to take its place?
bulletHow will China deal with the growing gap between rich and poor, rural and urban, increasing health hazards and the inability of its healthcare system to deal with the spread of AIDS and other diseases such as SARS? 
bulletWhat are the implications of China’s experience with SARS for the control or sharing of information, the role of the media and China’s willingness to collaborate with international bodies and organizations going forward?
bulletWhat does the Chinese government’s response to SARS indicate about its ability to manage national disaster, panic and social instability?
bulletWhat kind of leader will Hu Jintao be? Will he be able to follow through on his concern for dealing with social welfare issues while also establishing a more open rapport within China?
bulletWill the social challenges in China threaten the stability of the modernizing system, which the party has sought so diligently to maintain? If so, what will be the response?
bulletHow are the values of the younger generation changing? Is there a real shift from collectivism to individualism - with less feeling of responsibility to others? How much is China being influenced by the outside and how much by what is happening inside China? How will this change Chinese society and its ability to deal with future challenges?


The Natural Resources required for a Country of 1.4 Billion:

bulletDomestic coal supplies 70% of China's energy needs, but China will soon be the second largest consumer of oil in the world after the US.  How is this influencing China's relationship with its neighbors?
bulletFor the East Asian region, the question of China's growing power becomes increasingly critical. How is the power structure shifting in Asia?  and what impact is the continued challenge to Japan's economy having on this?

The Outlook for Political and Social Stability in China and the Region:

China now sees its interests aligned with the developed world rather than the developing nations and is adopting a mentality of "great power".  It has moved to resolve its territorial disputes and become more engaged in global issues and security.  However, The U.S.'s increasing assertiveness in international affairs since September 11 will undoubtedly lead China to engage in a different way than it has in the past. 

bulletHow will China attempt to deal with America's changing influence around the world, particularly when the U.S. does something which challenges China's own interests either domestically or internationally?
bulletWill China succeed in its efforts t influence North Korea into a less threatening position with North East Asia and the world?
bulletThe estimated level of non-performing loans in China are as high as $700,000 billion mostly with the State Owned sector.  What are the implications for global stability of a financial crisis in China?
bulletHow will China deal with perceived and real threats inside and outside its national borders - including "extremist" ideals of minority groups?

Japan - Why has it not yet recovered?

bulletWhat are the inherent issues in Japan's struggle to recover?  Is the problem really the banking system?
bulletWhat can we learn about deflation from Japan's experience?
bulletWhat are Japanese companies doing to take advantage of the competitive strengths of China?  What threats does China's growing economic strength pose for Japanese companies?  How is this changing the structure of the Japanese economy?

The "China Way"

China’s system for doing business is deeply rooted in its history and culture. Its entrepreneurial companies, public companies, State Owned Enterprises, and banking system may seem like any other but their purpose and behavior is uniquely different than other systems. The means for acquiring capital, human talent and creating the structures needed to conduct business differ greatly from other economies in the world, particularly the West. 

Foreign firms who assume that things in China are as they seem, do this at a cost. 

bulletHow do the concepts of ownership, networking, assets and the structure of the firm differ between China and other Asian systems as well as the West?
bulletWhat is the primary purpose of the firm in China?  Is it to create wealth for shareholders, employ people, help build the society and communities, provide useful goods and services or something else?

In what ways do these differences affect the behavior of Chinese enterprises when dealing with foreigners?


How can a foreign company recognize these cultural differences in the way it manages its operations in China?


In what ways does China’s culture account for its remarkable economic growth and the emergence of a vibrant private sector? What will it mean for its future?

The Global Company in East Asia

The forces of change and instability which influence business in China and the region and ultimately in the world are looked at first hand with individuals and foreign companies who have now been operating in the region for decades.

bulletHow are global companies structuring their organizations across Asia? 
bulletHow are they integrating cultural differences across the region and aligning their organizations towards common objectives?
bulletHow are they managing their operations in China differently now after years of experience, mistakes and learning?
bulletHow are foreign companies in China dealing with issues of counterfeit and intellectual property violations?


Resources for this Forum

This Forum draws leaders from global companies in Japan, Korea and South East Asia into small discussions in Shanghai.  It also includes  visits with many different types of leaders and individuals in reformed State Owned enterprises, private companies, other organizations, hospitals, schools, clinics as well as artists, musicians, farmers and migrant workers in the interior of China.

Forum resources and moderators for this Forum will include: Michael Alexander, Kenneth DeWoskin, Nan Doyal, Gordon Redding, Tianxiang Zhan


Other Questions:

There are important themes to understand as one explores the future successes and challenges of China.  The potential successes and challenges become clearer  when one meets with the individuals who are integrally involved in the ways in which China is changing.  There is much to be discovered in China that is also very relevant to our own worlds, at home, in business, in our communities, families and countries.


What kind of world will it be in five years time and what role will China and Chinese companies play in this?

bulletWhat is our ability to anticipate the changes that will happen and plan our responses to them, both institutionally and personally? What insights does China give us in this regard?
bulletWhat are the values and motivations of leaders today? How do they inspire trust? What can we learn from those who lead in China at all levels of society?



Read Recent Articles on China that relate to issues that will be covered at the Leaders Forum in China...

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times writes: "it's possible for China simultaneously to torture people and enrich them. Human and financial capital are growing and being deployed more sensibly, and a ferocious drive and work ethic are galvanizing even remote nooks like Gaoshan...China is on course eventually to recover its traditional pre-eminence. And just as China at its peak was blindsided by the rise of the West, we're likely to be blindsided by the rise of China." for more click here

John Thornhill, Financial Times writes: China's neighbours feel they have good reason to be wary of Beijing's growing power. For perhaps 18 of the past 20 centuries China has boasted the biggest economy in the world and still displays many of the reflexes and instincts of a hegemonic power. Many Chinese see the past two centuries of underdevelopment and colonial occupation as an embarrassing aberration that must be redressed. Home to the world's oldest and one of its richest civilisations, the argument goes, China must now regain its rightful place in the sun. For more click here