Great Decisions Forum

Great Decisions Forum to Focus on China’s International Clout

Highly knowledgeable speakers share their thoughts April 11-12 at The College of Wooster

March 14, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — An impressive array of international experts will examine China’s growing influence when The College of Wooster hosts the 2013 Great Decisions Forum April 11-12. The two-day event, titled “China’s Power and Influence: Promises and Challenges for the 21st Century,” features lectures and panel discussions. The first four sessions, which are free and open to the public, will be held in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.), while the final session, which is $13.50 and includes a luncheon made up exclusively of Chinese entrees, will be held in Kittredge Dining Hall (535 E. Wayne Ave.).

“As counsel to companies doing business throughout the world, it is impossible to understand fully the American business climate without understanding the impact of China upon American business,” said Doug Drushal, attorney with the law firm of Critchfield, Critchfield, & Johnston, Ltd., in Wooster, and a member of the Great Decisions of Wayne County Board of Directors. “The 2013 Great Decisions Program provides an excellent opportunity for Wayne County business leaders to gain some additional insights into what is now the second largest economy in the world.”

The series opens on Thursday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. when James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and one of America’s most respected journalists, presents “Doing Business in China: How to Get it Right in the Easiest Place on Earth to Get it Wrong.” While living in China, Fallows witnessed that country’s remarkable transformation from a sleeping giant to an international superpower, and captured a complex yet seldom-seen portrait of the nation. His observations reveal China's mutually beneficial but staggeringly complex relationship with the United States, and his understanding of the tenuous ties between the two countries helps to explain the often confounding ramifications for America and the world.

The following day, Fallows will moderate a panel discussion, titled “Doing Business in and with China” from 9-10:30 a.m. The panel will consist of Mary Wadsworth Darby, Jim Laurie, and Simon Seong Chee Tay.

Darby is the founder and managing director of Peridot Asia Advisors. She has developed a unique market expertise through her more than 25 years of living and working in China and Asia in the financial services industry and with Fortune 100 companies. She has created strategic business plans for a number of companies and negotiated numerous significant and complex transactions with her Chinese counterparts. Darby also has the distinction of being the first U.S. businesswoman to travel to China after the historic Nixon-Kissinger visit.

Laurie is a veteran journalist and broadcaster of nearly 40 years, with much of that time spent in Asia. He heads the video production and television consulting company Focus Asia Productions HK Ltd., and has provided consulting services for China Central Television in Beijing and the Al Jazeera English News Channel Asia operations in Kuala Lumpur, among others. He also served as director of broadcasting at the Journalism and Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong, and before that was an Emmy Award winning international radio and television correspondent.

Seong Chee Tay, who will join the panel remotely from Singapore, is an internationally known lawyer, author, political adviser and environmental policy expert who teaches international law at the University of Singapore, and is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. He served three terms as a Nominated Member of the Singapore Parliament, and has sat on numerous government boards and committees. He is the author of Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America, and his honors include the World Economic Forum’s Global Leader of Tomorrow award.

The program continues when Jeffrey Bader, the John C. Whitehead Senior Fellow in International Diplomacy at the Brookings Institution and former senior director for East Asian affairs on the National Security Council for the Obama administration, presents “An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy” at 10:45 a.m. Bader, the first director of the John L. Thornton China Center, is an expert in U.S. foreign policy and Asian security after three decades of experience in the Department of State, the National Security Council, and office of the United States Trade Representative. He is the author of Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy.

The event concludes on Friday at 12:30 p.m. with a lunch and an address by Yang Jianli, a major leader of the Chinese Democracy Movement and founder and president of the Foundation for China in the 21st Century. Yang, who will discuss “Democracy in China,” was imprisoned on several occasions by the Chinese government for his activism, including the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square when the now infamous massacre took place. He was also cited among the Top 100 Chinese Public Intellectuals of 2009, and is widely recognized as a leading architect for democracy in China. He is the co-author of a constitution for a democratic China, and has testified on several occasions before the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives on human rights issues in China.

One week prior to the main program (Wednesday, April 3, at 7 p.m.), there will be a documentary screening of “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” the inside story of a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. Ai Weiwei is China's most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. This screening, which is co-sponsored by Wooster's Art Department and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, will take place in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.).

First-time director Alison Klayman, who will introduce the film and take questions following the screening, gained unprecedented access to Ai Weiwei while working as a journalist in China, and her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures. Klayman is a Sundance Documentary Fellow and one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film."

There will also be a Student Research Showcase in collaboration with Wooster’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, in which seniors Xiaochen Zhang, Caroline Hanson, and Molly Young will share what they are discovering about China through their research. This showcase is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. in Babcock Hall.

“We are excited about the line-up of speakers and the condensed format,” said Jeff Steiner, acting chair of the Board of Directors of Great Decisions of Wayne County. “We hope that it will provide a window into the ever-changing dynamics between China and the world, both in business and political terms.”

Great Decisions is sponsored by the J.M. Smucker Company, First Merit Bank, the Noble Foundation, Meaden & Moore, United Titanium, Seaman Corporation, and The College of Wooster. Additional information can be found online. To purchase advance tickets for the closing keynote address and Chinese lunch please order now.