Patrick Shawn recently attended the Harvard China Forum in Boston earlier in April.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Harvard China Forum in Boston. It is the largest student-run convention in the United States with over 1,700 people in attendance. This year’s topic was “The Power of our Times” and covered the changing geopolitical climate. Given my interest in foreign relations, business as well as China I figured the conference would be an excellent opportunity to learn more.
The speakers in attendance covered a wide variety of topics including infrastructure, entertainment, AI, blockchain, foreign relations, and much more. Furthermore, after the conference, a career fair was being held which interested me because I am moving to China this fall to continue my studies and work.
While many of these speech topics were interesting, I only had a few to choose from because they were mostly held in Chinese and my level wasn’t high enough to understand. The speeches were primarily in Chines because unknown to me when I booked my ticket the majority of the attendees would be Chinese. In fact, during the entire conference I probably only met six other non-Chinese people. Being at the event and not being able to communicate with many of the attendees or listen to the speakers made me realize how much more attention I need to put on my language learning.
Thankfully some of the talks were in English or offered simultaneous translation. Of these the most interesting one I attended was about the growing role of AI and the overall industry. The speakers came from startups, venture funds, and established companies and brought varied views to the topic. Overall though they said that AI is coming and it is coming quickly with no way to stop it for those that are skeptical of it. Moreover, they said that workers need to be prepared to see changes in their roles as AI has the potential to displace many jobs while at the same time creating many more.
In addition to attending the conference, I also met with several international businessmen to learn more about working abroad. While most of my peers would probably name Europe as somewhere abroad they would like to work, I would say Asia. Primarily because of the estimated potential economic growth in the region. Working in the region would bring special challenges that my peers in Europe would not necessarily face. First, there is the language barrier for most large companies in Europe. Many believe that English is widely spoken and that is not true. Second, the culture in this region is significantly different than here at home. For instance, it is incredibly rude to open a present or award in front of those who gave it, why though I haven’t figured out. Third, there are the business practices in the region. A simple and obvious one is that you always give and receive business cards with two hands. In Japan, this is especially important because the business card is seen as an extension of the individual.
Altogether, even when not understanding the speeches, my trip was an informative one. And I hope to again travel to Boston for the conference once I become more proficient in Chinese.