Young China Watchers (YCW) is welcoming the launch of the New York chapter, and with it, Victoria Lai, the chapter’s co-head and one of the people responsible for creating the new community.
Lai is a China analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), where she does macroeconomic research on China with a specific focus on its regional economies.
She first came across YCW in 2008, while working in Beijing and attended a few events. She says she liked the comfortable discussion setting, which made it feel like a community.
Lai was based in Beijing from 2008 – 2011. While there, she describes it being an interesting time and place, in which almost everything surprised her. It was around the time of the Olympics when a lot of things were changing.
“Even though I could understand on paper that things were changing quickly, it wasn’t until moving there that I really understood what exactly that means there,” she says.
Dealing with these changes come with the job, and Lai says studying China now would be different from years past. She suggests that analysts’ frame of reference in terms of China’s development changes with the times, with more pressure coming from different sectors like local governance, local unrest, social dynamics, etc. Technological developments, in particular, will be important in thinking about the economic or political atmosphere, she says.
But in terms of methodology, Lai says that it remains constant. She explains that they go through it methodically, looking through recent statistics, longer-term drivers, and the fundamentals (organization, demographics, education, technology, etc.).
When asked what Lai and her clients are currently focusing on, she says clients are worried about a hard landing in China’s economy, when they see much property development with poor sales. But Lai believes there will be a soft landing, which she says could be a good thing.
“A slower growth rate, if it’s moving towards something that’s more sustainable and not so much in wasted industrial capacity or something like that, that’s actually healthy in the long run for the Chinese economy,” she says.
After moving to New York in 2011, Lai says there is not much difference being an analyst in New York and Beijing, except for the weekly long-distance phone calls to China.
When she’s not being an analyst, Lai has been enjoying the experience of organizing the new chapter and planning events. Lai and Jo Ling Kent will be both heading up YCW in New York.
“I think they can look forward to beyond our amazing speakers, a chance to get to know each other, and continue the conversations that they may be having on China itself, here in New York,” says Lai.
Lai says that they are still formulating the chapter’s vision, but part of the way it evolves will depend on the members who come and what they want to see.
- by Phoebe Yu