David Ong New Faculty in Behavioural Game Theory/Industrial Organization and Experimental Economics My grandfather, an engineer, returned to China in 1954. Our family left China for Canada after the Cultural Revolution, when I was a boy. China had already become unrecognizable when I returned to Shanghai in 95-97 to consult for multinational firms. Since then, China has changed even more. This year is the 60th anniversary of the new China. Many celebrations and films to reflect upon how far China has come. China started as a country divided by civil war, dominated by foreign powers and eaten through by corruption. China has, after much suffering and great cost, become largely unified. Now, China is on the brink of a world power. Last year’s hosting of the Olympics reflects and celebrates this, as does the World Expo next year. Even now, China is a net lender to the rich world, especially to America. In 2050, it will likely surpass America in GDP. China will make even greater strides in the future. However, during the magnificent Olympics celebrations, when so much of Chinese art, music, dance, wealth and glory were on display, a famous Chinese woman asked: “What has China to contribute to world civilization?” as if civilization were not only, or not even mostly dances, wealth and glory. However, this question cannot be answered, yet. But, in 60 years, the question will have been answered. What will that answer be? A new kind of capitalism is beginning in China. What will that capitalism look like in the 60 years? Will it be like the traffic of Shenzhen where the law is often determined by the size of the car? Or, will it be like the buses of the very same Shenzhen? where each time I have been on them, I have seen young men giving their seats to the old, the weak, or even to me, not so old and not so weak, carrying my bike. What role will we have played in that China? Thus, “What has China to contribute to world civilization?” is also a good question to ask at the opening ceremony of a business school, which will contribute so much to the wealth, glory, or even the dances of China. In 60 years, you will have been rich. But, how you will become rich, whether that will be through hard work, fair and honest dealings, or through other means, is still to be determined. We can also be sure that Bei Da will be famous through you. But what will it be famous for? Will you have become builders of a more civilized capitalism? Or merely learned how to better exploit its imperfections? It is a strange thing that suddenly, by becoming members of Bei Da, what we do now matters. What you learn, or more importantly, don’t learn will now matter to the 10s, 100s, 1000s and perhaps millions of lives you will affect with your decisions. What you do will also matter even now because of the respect that ordinary Chinese, both rich and poor, confer upon you. When you act in a civilized way 10s, 100s, perhaps 1000s will act in a more civilized way. When you act otherwise, many more will follow you. As your teachers, we have that burden to an even greater extent. I am sure that many who helped found China 60 years ago in their youth have been asking, “What have I contributed to China’s civilization?” They are in a position to answer this question. Their task is done. Many of them can look on with pride. Some cannot. Within 60 years, if we are still on this earth, we too will be able to answer this question. But, asking a question like this when it can be answered is to ask the question too late. The right time to ask “What have I to contribute to Chinese civilization?”is when it cannot be answered, or rather, when it can only be answered by our actions: by our civility towards each other in the lines in the cafeteria, by our kindness towards ordinary Chinese on buses, or even by our yielding to the smaller car in Shenzhen traffic. As with the founders of the new China 60 years ago, so our legacy and the reputation of the school in 60 years begins with our actions now, on our first day of our first year.
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