A Week in China - Day One in Hong Kong

I am traveling again with Georgia Tech development staff and this week, our travels bring us back to Asia, for the second and final week of this summer’s important meetings in the region.  This week, we are focused on continued collaboration and building partnerships in China.  Our time here will include meetings with business leaders and university representatives, alumni receptions, celebrations of critical collaborations, and exploratory discussions surrounding potential new opportunities with our partners in industry, government, and education. 

Our week begins in Hong Kong, with the week ahead including stops in the cities of Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. 

Hong Kong’s blend of history and culture is the very definition of East meets West. I first visited Hong Kong in 1983.  Still a British colony, it was certainly distinct from mainland China.  With a transition process that began in 1984, it would not become a semi-autonomous region of China until 1997.

That first visit came after three weeks in the mainland, which had barely begun opening to the west. From the now long-gone airport, I clearly recall an approach to land among a cityscape of skyscrapers so dense and extraordinary that I could barely believe my eyes. The energy was palpable – this was a place for the adventurous, and young entrepreneurs who were in a hurry. That culture has developed over hundreds of years. I urge you to read James Clavell’s novels Tai-Pan and Noble House. Clavell’s storytelling is an entertaining way to get an accurate and historical sense of the origins of this extraordinary city.

Hong Kong continues to be electrifying, although many cities of mainland China, certainly Shanghai, are following the model. The Hong Kong port is one of the largest and most active in the world. The city has gone well beyond its origins as a hub of trading houses to become a top financial center in East Asia, boasting one of the highest concentrations of banking institutions in the world, with 70 of the largest 100 banks in the world having an operation here.  Undoubtedly, its Hong Kong’s status as an international premier financial hub, and its reputation for a Western-style business environment, that brings dozens of Georgia Tech alumni to its banks and financial institutions.

On Wednesday night, I had the pleasure to meet with about 10 alumni/ae. We also had the honor to have with us, Dr. Sue Van, Hon. PhD Georgia Tech. Dr. Van is the president of the Coulter Foundation, a long-term supporter of Georgia Tech. Our Biomedical Engineering Department carries the Coulter name and Dr. Van has been a steadfast fan, supporter and participant of our activities in China.

Our partnership is deep and long standing, recognizing the common bond to the late Wallace Coulter, founder of the Coulter Corporation, the Foundation that proudly bears his name, and Georgia Tech alumni.

Emblematic of Hong Kong our alums hail from all over the world. For example, we had one individual from Panama and another from Georgia, USA. Although most had engineering degrees, they mostly work in finance, investments, marketing and even fashion (Senior VP of Ralph Lauren - Asia). It proves that a Georgia Tech education empowers the individual to do whatever they want!

It was a great evening. I must acknowledge the very hard work of alumnus Brandon Young for all his help and attention to the event.  Brandon is truly Georgia Tech through and through.

I am confident that this visit will lead to an active Georgia Tech alumni club in Hong Kong.

- Rafael L. Bras

Photo above: Dr. Sue Van, Hon. PhD Georgia Tech (pictured center), stands with Dr. Rafael Bras to her left, along with members of Georgia Tech's development team, and Georgia Tech alumni living in Hong Kong. 

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  • Hong Kong - China Development Trip - August 2015

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