An Economist Event

International Relations Graduate, Colin McGinness, describes his experiences at "The Economist: Open Future Festival", which he recently attended.

After moving to Hong Kong, it’s easy to end up slipping into a bit of a bubble and not bothering with remaining informed about the comings and goings of politics and news that seems so distant from our everyday lives. This is why I was so glad to be able to attend The Economist: Open Future Festival event recently with Chatteris’ own Charlotte Bland and Adam Bennett.

The event was hosted in Central on Hong Kong Island and corresponded with similar events occurring on the same day in New York and London. All three events were part of The Economist’s Open Future series that featured in the magazine throughout the year. The series’ aims were to promote free trade, the rules-based world order and the overall values of liberalism, at a time when arguably all three are challenged around the world. The Economist was founded on the principles of liberal economics and policies, so their defensive nature is understandable. Whether or not the challenges are justified should be left to better minds than my own, but the cast of speakers at the event presented valuable insights into both cases, for even a layman such as me.

Before the event started, participants were invited to share their beliefs on America's tariffs on Chinese imports.

The evening was hosted by The Economist’s foreign editor, Robert Guest, who also moderated several of the panel discussions. The first of which featured Danny Quah; a dean and senior professor in economics at the National University of Singapore, and Kotaro Tamura; a former senator in the Japanese Diet and cabinet minister of Shinzo Abe’s government. The talk revolved around the idea of openness in Asia and asked whether or not an ‘open’ society would benefit Asian nations. This helped set the stage for the following discussions on the different facets of openness.

The night continued with several other panels discussing the nature of free trade in the Trump era and more. There was also a panel of start-up founders and lawyers, which outlined the start-up culture in China and its competition with Silicon Valley. The event then culminated in a recital from The Unsung Heroes Choir, a singing group composed of domestic helpers. They performed a beautiful rendition of a song written to express the feelings of many helpers in Hong Kong, as well as a few other choral hits. After they received a lengthy and much-deserved standing ovation, it was time to head to the open bar and enjoy some free food. There was plenty of time at the end of the evening to network with many of the notable speakers that had stayed behind after their presentations and The Economist even commissioned their own beer (made out of bread) for the occasion!

All in all, the evening was an excellent opportunity to listen and discuss different worldviews and political stances that we otherwise may not have been exposed to. I’m thankful that these types of opportunities exist in Hong Kong and I’m looking forward to attending more in the future.

Left/Right: Colin and Charlotte at the festival. Middle: Adam takes centre stage just 5 minutes into the festival.


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