Boao Forum at a glance: Packed schedule features global leaders discussing key drivers for growth

Boao in China's Hainan province will on April 8 once again become a hub for global leaders as senior representatives from government, business and academia attend the annual conference from the Boao Forum for Asia.

The theme for 2014 is Asia's New Future: Identifying New Growth Drivers, and the program is packed with a wide range of sessions, events and talks to address this goal.

The purpose of the forum is to deepen communication, cooperation and economic exchange - between Asian countries, and between Asia and the rest of the world. Its annual conference gives leading players in China, the Asia Pacific and the world the chance to meet, share ideas and plan for the future.

There will be 58 formal sessions in total; an increase on last year that reflects the ever-growing size and status of the conference.

The opening ceremony on April 10 will be hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, with other world leaders in attendance including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Arkady Vladimirovich Dvorkovich, deputy prime minister of Russia.

Highlights from the program for 2014 include four themed sets of events focusing on a major country or region: The European Union, the United States, Russia and Australia.

Government leaders, entrepreneurs and economists from these economies will be able to have face-to-face interactions with one another and with delegates.

Closed door dialogues are once again an important part of the event. These invitation-only sessions will allow CEOs the opportunity to share ideas and network at the highest level with their peers and with Chinese ministers, governors and academics.

One of these meetings, for example, will give selected entrepreneurs the opportunity to have a valuable dialogue with Premier Li.

The clout of the Boao Forum for Asia is reflected in its sterling list of high-profile and high-achieving panelists and delegates.

Among the former world leaders attending this year are Bob Hawke, the former premier of Australia who was instrumental in developing and setting up the forum in the late 1990s; Yasuo Fukuda, former prime minister of Japan; and Dominique de Villepin, former prime minister of France.

Banking representatives include Stephen Groff, vice president of the Asian Development Bank, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China.

Other financial experts include Edmund Phelps and Michael Spence, both Nobel laureates in economics.

From business, heavy hitters include Liu Chuanzhi, founder and chairman of Lenovo, one of China's greatest technology success stories; Ratan Tata, honorary chairman of the board of India's Tata Group, one of the country's biggest conglomerates; and Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post, the state-owned mail firm that is one of the biggest companies in the world.

From outside of Asia, the presence of the likes of Olof Persson, president and CEO of the Volvo Group, and Michael Treschow, chairman of Unilever, shows how important the forum is becoming for major multinational corporations.

A packed schedule across four days - up from last year's three-day event - runs from breakfast meetings to evening events with topics including climate change, the auto industry, real estate and farming.

The topics may be diverse, but the sessions are all focused on the new growth needed to sustain the success story of Asia's recent economic development.

Highlights from the program include a session on logistics. Called Shifting Global Supply Chain and the Rise of Asia's Consumer Markets, it will address issues from sourcing to retailing, including market opportunities and business model innovations as the middle class in Asia grows and changes the face of retail.

And, as Asian companies seek to improve their global status, figuring out how to market their brands is essential to success. The session titled Brand Building in Asia: National and Corporate Strategies should provide illuminating insights from some leading players in the sector.

Panelists at this event include Bruce Sewell, senior vice president of Apple, and Liang Haishan, the president of Haier, a market leader in the global white goods sector.

Meanwhile, big data and cloud computing are much-mentioned but often misunderstood topics. A session will address how big data can be used while investigating the attendant privacy issues.

And, for a conference looking toward a new future, it is no surprise that tomorrow's leaders have also been accounted for. A number of representatives aged below 35 from the political, commercial, academic and media sectors have been chosen to take part. This investment in the future will no doubt help to lay the groundwork for many successful events to come.

[ Editor: lsm ]