Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

The conference in Dalian, China has already been dubbed the “Summer Davos” (the “Winter Davos” being its Swiss ski resort counterpart). While politicians with a worldwide influence, managers of big corporations, and academics gather for the Winter Davos meeting, Summer Davos is for up-and-coming business leaders, known as the New Champions.

This, the first Summer Davos, is being held in Dalian as a result of China’s aggressive appeal to the World Economic Forum to host the event. The second is already set for Tianjin. This means China was successful in getting two Summer Davos meetings, in addition to the Beijing Summer Olympics and Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Unfortunately, the Japanese government has not recognized the significance of the Davos meetings and made no effort to host themselves. I even heard that when the East Asia Economic Summit (a regional Davos meeting) was held in Tokyo last year, the Japanese government didn’t cover the cost at all, but the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), a private entity, put up approximately 60 million for the event.

Though South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and India are very enthusiastic about holding these types of events, Japan appears to have been left behind. I am mortified by this. Approximately 2,000 influential people from around the world attend, making this an ideal chance to show off Japan’s allure. As a result, Japanese participants are forced to do battle as a “visiting team.”

Conferences like this are where public opinion is formed. Statements addressed in the conference affect the thinking of influential people around world, and countries, companies, and people who make important statements will grab substantial leadership. Holding this kind of conference as the “home team” makes it easier to make an impact. China understands this significance very well.

In the Summer Davos meeting, people mainly from the following communities are scheduled to gather:

1) Official members of the Davos Meeting
Centered on large corporations who have net sales exceeding 500 billion, there are currently about 1,000 of these members, including about 40 Japanese companies, such as NYK Line, Sony Corporation, and Mori Building Co., Ltd.

2) Global Growth Companies (GGC)
A community for managers of rapidly growing medium-size companies, GGC has approximately 100 elected leaders from around the world. In addition to myself, there is Oki Matsumoto, president of Monex, Inc.; Kenichi Hatori, president of Gulliver International Co., Ltd.; Tetsuya Iizuka, president of THine Electronics, Inc.; and financial companies such as Unison Capital, Inc., Advantage Partners LLP, MKS Partners Ltd, and SBI Holdings, Inc.

3) Young Global Leaders (YGL)
This is a community of leaders who are 40 and under. There are approximately 400 of them around the world. Those serving out their three-year terms include Japanese politicians Ryuhei Kawada; Keiichiro Asao; the mayor of Yokohama, Hiroshi Nakata; the entrepreneurial president of Oisix, Inc., Kohei Takashima; conductor Tomomi Nishimoto; and Kumi Fujisawa of Sophia Bank. Etsuko Okajima from GLOBIS is also a member of this group.

4) Other Communities
These include people who have been elected as social entrepreneurs and technology pioneers.

5) Other Invitees
The rest consist mainly of politicians, scholars, entrepreneurs, journalists, and artists. From Japan, Heizo Takenaka, Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, and Professor Yoko Ishikura were invited as scholars in this group. Yoichi Funabashi of the Asahi Shimbun and others joined as journalists. To my disappointment, few Japanese politicians came.

From these, the Summer Davos meeting had more participants from groups 2-5 compared to the Winter meeting, so relatively younger people made up the majority. Up-and-coming business leaders proved to be the primary participants in Asia, while older leaders, large companies, and politicians mainly attend in Europe.

Summer Davos started the evening of September 5. That night, I was invited to dinner as a member of GGC. It’s a great honor to be able to participate in this event, hosted by Davos founder Klaus Schwab.

The person sitting next to me founded AirArabia, a discount airline with Dubai as the hub. I heard that his company was profitable in the first fiscal year, and went public in the fourth fiscal year. Global trends are in the air while dining with such people, so I seized the opportunity to network.

From September 6, the Summer Davos meeting officially started. I had breakfast at the hotel with the head of the Thunderbird School of Global Management. People had gathered from all around the world for this conference, making it the ideal occasion to have informal meetings.

After that, we moved to the main venue by bus. As I looked out the window, I saw that the city was well prepared. Construction sites had large banners saying, “We wish for a successful Summer Davos.” Signs in rear taxi windows read, “We enthusiastically welcome the Summer Davos meeting.” It was clear that the entire city was supporting the conference.

The conference was held at the Dalian World Expo Center located in Xinghai Square, an extraordinarily huge place. After finishing registration, we went up large escalators to the second floor, where the main session, with our own Heizo Takenaka participating, had already started.

It was a welcome sight to see a Japanese speaker in the main session like this. Takenaka spoke eagerly in fluent English.

Then break-out sessions were held. The first one I joined was “Innovation Heat Map,” a closed workshop lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes. This was similar to a GLOBIS class, with a general discussion, explanation of the purpose, discussions in small groups, and finally a discussion with all participants.

Lunchtime was a venture capital session that included some GLOBIS Fund investors. After lunch, I exchanged opinions with participants in a large lounge.

From 3 pm, there was a discussion with Schwab and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. I headed to the venue a little early and decided to take a seat in the middle of the front row. During the Q&A, I raised my hand immediately, but wasn’t chosen. Too bad.

Takenaka and I found each other after the session and decided to have tea. He’s normally very busy in Japan, so this was a rare opportunity for us to spend time together and exchange opinions.

Later, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, was scheduled to make a speech, so I headed to the venue to listen. I remembered being very inspired by his words at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Jordan. He alone is virtually responsible for the current prosperity of Dubai. Perhaps he is the equivalent to Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore.

In the evening, there was a soirée with a speech by the mayor of Dalian. Sitting next to me was the former Canadian ambassador to Japan, currently the ambassador to China. It was very meaningful to hear the differences between Japan and China from the viewpoint of an ambassador.

After dinner, there was a two-hour performance to show everything that China has to offer: singing, dancing, opera, acrobats, acrobatic bicycle riding, trapeze artists, a circus, a hand play, kung fu, and finally a Peking opera. I could feel the enthusiasm and seriousness from the performers who had been chosen to represent their country and culture.

There is a lot of enthusiasm in China to show the positive side of the country. When I questioned the students who were helping with the meeting, they unanimously answered that they’d volunteered in the hope that people around the world would get to know the good qualities that China possesses.

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