A week of strange speakers in Asia
September always sees a glut of conferences in Hong Kong and Singapore, and with them, an apparent competition to come up with the unlikeliest keynote presenter.
Candidate one: Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist with a face Stephen Colbert once compared to a helmetless Darth Vader on meth.
Bannon, whose views on China have been derogatory to put it mildly, was perhaps an unlikely choice to address the CLSA Investors Forum in Hong Kong, particularly as CLSA is now owned by Chinese state-owned Citic Securities.
But then again CLSA has always championed its independence and quirkiness, which perhaps explains our second candidate: Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who also spoke at the CLSA event. (Bannon, incidentally, turned all nice about China and said there wasn’t a world leader US president Donald Trump respected more than Xi Jinping.)
Candidate three: the same week, the Milken Institute held an annual forum in Singapore, at which supermodel Naomi Campbell was a rather glamorous choice. They did, however, keep her within her field of expertise with a presentation called: ‘Suite life of the ultra rich: Asia’s luxury market.’ Al Gore also presided.
Martina Navratilova’s role as a keynote at this month’s BNP Paribas Sustainable Future Forum in Singapore is explained by the bank’s sponsorship of a tennis tournament that takes place on the same day.
And all these choices were surely preferable to three senior Chinese state figures giving almost identical speeches consecutively at the Hong Kong Trade and Development Commission Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong.