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Ken Davies, the founder and President of the consultancy
Growing Capacity, Inc. since March 2012 and concurrently
Visiting Professor at the University of Durham since July 2010. I live in
New York state.
From September 2010 to September 2011 I was Senior Economist at the Vale Columbia Center for Sustainable International Investment under Columbia Law School and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. There I edited the Columbia FDI Profiles and Columbia FDI Perspectives. I found the Center to be surprisingly small. Apart from the Executive Director, Karl Sauvant, and a part-time (since replaced by a full-time) secretary, nobody else there was working on these publications and on the Emerging Markets Global Players project, which was and is sustained by a diligent colleague working from home in Montreal. Much of the work was done, unpaid, by Columbia postgrads. I will write further about this in Ken Davies' Chinability blog.
Before then, from 2002 until 2010, I was Senior Economist and Principal Administrator in the Investment Division of the Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, working on investment policy issues with the governments of China and other non-member countries, including India, Indonesia and Russia. You can find an account of my work at the OECD with the government of China on Ken Davies' Chinability blog, where further revelations will be added later.
From 1993 to 2001 I worked for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), latterly as Chief Economist for Asia and Bureau Chief in the EIU's Hong Kong office. While there, I wrote and edited quarterly Country Reports, Country Forecasts and Country Risk Reports on China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and other Asian economies. In Hong Kong I managed a team of bright and enthusiastic editors of the various business periodicals published by the EIU, the monthly-updated part series China Hand, and wrote a number of electronic Viewswire articles, while continuing to work on the core EIU publications produced in London. I had already been writing Country Reports and other publications on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong before joining the EIU full-time, from 1986 onward. I also wrote two book-length EIU Special Reports on the economy of Hong Kong: Hong Kong to 1994: A Question of Confidence in 1990 and Hong Kong after 1997 in 1996. What I learned from working at the EIU is on the Ken Davies' Chinability blog.
Back in the turbulent 1960s I studied Chinese Studies and Sociology at the University of Leeds. The University neglected, however, to mention the Sociology on my degree certificate, despite my high scores in the same examinations taken by my fellow students who specialised in Sociology and had taken exactly the same course of lectures and tutorials, so I was not in a position to teach sociology thereafter.
I attempted to go to China as a teacher of English -- virtually the only acceptable role for a foreigner in China in those days -- but when I graduated in 1967 China's universities were closed after a year of the "cultural revolution" (see below). After I finished my postgraduate studies in 1970 I went back to the Chinese embassy, but the story was always the same: "You realise that Chinese universities are in the dopey guy phase...". Well, that wasn't quite what they meant, but in Chinese they would tell me that the universities were undergoing "dou, pi, gai" (斗批改), meaning "struggle, criticism, transformation" (i.e. closed, but with lots of shouting), which sounds like "dopey guy" in English.
In the stagflationary 1970s I graduated in Economics at the University of London and also obtained a Certificate in Education (Further and Secondary) from the University of London. Living in the UK at a time when China remained closed, I focused on learning about the country at a distance. I did teach a beginners' Chinese evening class, but mostly taught other things, including economics, communications and even information technology. I pioneered the use of desktop computers and word processors, so I was viewed as an interloper by the engineers, who considered computers their exclusive territory, and as a techno-traitor by the English literature specialists, who held it as a matter of poetic faith that all machines were inhuman and/or that computers would never be useful to anyone. I also pioneered the teaching of information technology to a wide range of students who were not at that time expected to be interested or able to learn how to use computers -- and, like everyone else, now use them all the time. As well as all this, my efforts to bring computer assisted learning to education in the 1980s look quaint now that online teaching is widely available at low cost.
My first visit to China was in the summer of 1976. China was supposedly celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Just as Voltaire pointed out that the Holy Roman Empire was not holy, Roman or an empire, it had for years since the conclusion of the "cultural revolution" in 1969 been strikingly evident that it had not been in any way great, nor at all proletarian, certainly more anti-cultural than cultural, and definitely not revolutionary, as its effect was to entrench an established totalitarian dictatorship. Everybody in China in August 1976 knew or suspected that Mao was dying, but nobody talked about it.
In the 1980s, China started to come back to the world after Deng Xiaoping took over at the end of 1978 and switched from the former closed-door policy to one of open-door economic reform. It was not, though, until 1985 that I had an opportunity to return to China, this time accompanying a friend who had been the "leader" of the 1976 delegation to Liaoning Province. (Actually, we had been very democratic and elected a different "leader" every day, after being told we had to have one, but my friend, as the eldest, was informally regarded as the leader by our guides.) As a result of a good connection with one of the local Party leaders, we were granted unprecedented access to the provincial education system, in particular the vocational courses offered by senior middle schools to students not destined for university entrance. This was a real eye-opener. I had got to know the British vocational education system at first hand. A visit to some technical colleges in Hong Kong en route to Liaoning gave me another benchmark to compare with. It was clear that China was offering world-class training in important industrial skills while also maintaining courses in general education for these students. Moreover, the province had done a deal with employers who were in many cases paying for the final year of the course so they could recruit the students immediately upon graduation. Some final years, for example in the college that taught a traditional Dalian art form, paintings made from seashells, took place in the factories themselves. On the other hand, the nonvocational courses suffered from the usual problems of which Chinese students continue to compalin. For example, an English language class using the latest language laboratory equipment (the same as I had seen in Hong Kong, using a light pen for input) was being taught in the same way as if the students had not been wearing headphones, with everyone reading from the same text and the girls "helping" the linguistically challenged boys, who were clearly not learning. During this trip, I was asked to speak at a meeting of teachers in Dalian. We went there by minibus, a journey of a couple of hundred miles along roads with no lighting (Chinese drivers in those days didn't use headlamps at night) and occasionally broken, necessitating a "get out and push" operation. On arrival, I discovered that instead of the dozen or so people I had expected, there were hundreds of teachers from all over the province. I said nothing about the Chinese education system, but instead talked about the low esteem and pay of teachers in England, which set everyone murmuring.
I am adding to this page day by day, so please keep coming back.
An expanded version of this personal history note can be found by trawling Ken Davies' Chinability blog.
How to contact me:
Skype - kendavies1966.
Call Sign - KD2AZU.