Harvard China Forum Marks Century of Revolution
By Natalie Ornell
One hundred years have passed since the 1911 Chinese Revolution, which unleashed profound and enduring changes in China’s government and society. The Harvard China Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting academic, economic, and cultural exchange between China and the international community, held its 14th annual conference for leading scholars, policy makers, and business professionals to examine China’s contemporary challenges in the context of the past century from April 8th-10th at Harvard University.
The Harvard China Forum is one of the largest China-focused conferences in North America and annually attracts hundreds of audiences from across the world. Topics at this year’s forum ranged from culture and society, business and innovation, to economics and finance.
In a crowded panel on Chinese movies, Chinese-American actor and documentary film producer Lisa Lu discussed the internationalization of Chinese movies throughout history, focusing on the influence of Western film. Lu is famous for an expansive film career, which included roles in “The Last Emperor” and “The Joy Luck Club.”
Joining the Chinese movies panel was also Peter Shiao, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Orb Media Group, a “transmedia” production, marketing, and financing company based in Los Angeles and Beijing. Shiao noted the growing significance of China in the international film industry.
He said, “This is an unprecedented moment in Hollywood. I’ve worked in various sectors of Hollywood and what’s happening is a historic moment. I was just traveling with James Cameron, the director of Avatar two weeks ago. What I’ve seen from Steven Spielberg to every major producer is that China has shown up for them in a major way. The China dream is one the biggest motivations that drives Hollywood today.”
In another panel on China’s healthcare system, Chief Executive Officer of Morningside, a diversified investment group engaged in private equity and venture capital investments, Gerald Chan, emphasized the relationship between good drugs and good science and discussed the complications that arise from a market when it values revenue over innovation. Chan sits on the board of several private biotechnology companies including Stealth Peptides, Advanced Cell Diagnostics, Matrivax and Vaccine Technologies Inc.
“I’m concerned that science has a structural bureaucratic impediment to the drug development agenda,” he said.
Chan continued, “A lot of people have misconceptions about the state of healthcare in China. China has very good tertiary hospitals. The problem is access to tertiary care, which is available to a small number. China lacks certain advanced molecular diagnostics. The availability of good drugs is a problem. How we make better drugs available to the masses. There is a constant pressure of lowering the cost of drugs.”
Chan urged those in the audience interested in drug development to go back to China and “team up with others, if you’re going to start a company” because “developing drugs is not something one person can do”.
Ray Weng, a marketing professional at Skycore Mobile Services from Shanghai and a recent graduate from Emerson College, attended the healthcare panel.
“I want to know something about the healthcare market and I’m interested in the panel for my career development,” he said.
The conference drew hundreds of young people from Asia, especially China, who are working and studying in the United States.
Conference attendee Chi Fei grew up in the Anhui province of China before moving to Singapore and eventually to Boston, where he studied at Boston College.
He said, “I’m here to meet new and old friends and hear ideas so that I can have better ideas from better perspectives. I just met a few classmates from Singapore. I was very interested in the Real Estate panel. It provided me with new ideas. It was a chance to hear from entrepreneurs like Feng Lun. You know how influential this conference is. The last time I came, it gave me a good impression.”
The Harvard China Forum proved challenging for Katima Zahra Nkairi because she does not speak Mandarin Chinese.
“To be honest with you, I just attended this one [healthcare panel] with the explanation that it was all in English. However, I was disappointed. Half of the lecture was in Chinese language. I was planning to attend asset-management but it was in Chinese language only. A lot of people are interested in learning about China. However, the language was a barrier,” Nkairi said.
Melody Tian drove from New York with her friends to attend the conference because of her interest in both China and investment.
“This conference is the biggest China and U.S. conference that gets everyone together at the same time,” she said.
The Harvard China Forum also runs a cultural exchange program in the summer and works closely with the “Harvard China Review,” a China-focused magazine.