By Linh PMP

Delegate, Business Management & Strategy Panel

1. About HPAIR

As Harvard’s largest annual student conference in Asia, the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) facilitates discussions of the key economic, political, and social issues happening Asia-Pacific region. In 2010, the theme of discussion is “Sustaining Momentum: Ten Years into the Asian Century”.

The conference’s main activities include one business plenary, one academic plenary, 6-panel discussions in the morning and seminar sessions in the afternoon. In addition, the schedule comprises other extra activities such as pre-conference tour, SMU campus trip, international night, “Act for change” show case and panel field trips to various corporations and organizations.[1]

In general, the 2010 conference is outstandingly successful, according to the opinion of many delegates. This year I was very lucky to be one of the two Vietnamese students who got the sponsorship from Vietnam-Hawaii Relationship organization to participate in this event.

2. Highlights

2.1. HPAIR impression

HPAIR 2010 struck me as a very professional conference firstly in terms of the organizing process. The schedule was well-planned with various events related to academic discussions, practical field trips as well as cultural exchange and out-of-conference discoveries. Besides, Suntec City – the main location of HPAIR conference this year – provided a very good atmosphere where all plenary or seminar venues were well-facilitated. Undeniably, the serious-minded preparation by the organizing committee created a favorable environment for all guests and delegates to enjoy and express themselves.

In addition, the content of this conference included many critical issues, challenging questions and interesting ideas. Speakers from the US, Europe and Asia spent time talking about possible changes in a global context when considering the strong emergence of Asian nations like China and India. They believed in the growing strength of China; however, they did not think that China would manage to become the world leader in the way that the USA did with their military power in the past. Moreover, India, with a great growth potential, also stands a good chance of overtaking China in the race for the leading position. And not less importantly, it is now the era for not only China and India, but also other Asian countries, including Vietnam. The economic power, therefore, will be gradually shifted to the Asian continent.

“The 19th century was the century of Europe. The 20th century was the century of America. And the 21st century will be the century of Asia”.[2] This idea was mentioned many times during the conference, which certainly raised many thoughts inside the minds of each delegate. “From a personal point of view, I must admit I did not believe in what serious crisis we find ourselves until my stay in Asia the last two weeks,” stated by an Austrian delegate, Theresia Leitinger.[3] And she continued with a commitment to a “crisis” resolve – “Let’s use both, the traditional, well-known and gentle European way with the American “sky is the limit”-dream that fist of all hard work leads to success and combine those two with the new Asian approach to innovation, education and leadership.”

To my viewpoint, I am well aware of the opportunities and challenges that are awaiting my country ahead. In the next century, Vietnam will not only cope with the rising competition inside Asian area, but also the awakening of Western and American powers. In this context, there is no better way than investing in education, integrating into international environment and cooperating in order to gain a win-win situation.

But these macro issues are not the only concern of the conference. Among six panels in HPAIR 2010, I chose to join “Business management & strategy“. The first topic of this panel was leadership where the CEO of UBS Singapore, the CEO of McDonalds Japan, and the CEO of World Toilet Organization shared their experience regarding to their top-position in the corporation. The second was about Global Strategy presented by the CEO of Garuda Indonesian, the COO of Infosys Technologies Limited, the Asia Manager of Prada Group and Asia Manager of Kraft food. The last was creative capitalism with the presence of the Director of East Asia & Pacific – WB’s IFC, the Global Head for Ovi Life Tool and the CEO of Olam. Each session offered an opportunity for delegates to listen, to think, to ask and discuss, which helped us have a realistic view of business operating process. Furthermore, the panel’s activities included a field trip to the biggest oil production plant in Southeast Asian region – Exxon Singapore and the development site of 3M Asia. The representatives of these two companies also gave more information about the operation of their business plus their development strategies. Technology, innovation and human resource are some key words in these presentations.

However, the thing that I will remember the most after five days in the conference is the talented delegates from all over the world – Singapore, China, India, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, the US, Austria, Germany, Denmark and so on. I mostly discussed with these delegates during lunch time and out-of-conference trips. These free talks, with no doubts, could inspire me not less than official speeches by the honored speakers in the conference.

2.2. Singapore impression

Singapore – the host country this year has a very good impression to me. It is a multicultural nation where we can learn about Chinese, Indian, and even European by just wandering around the city. Singapore also succeeds in establishing and maintaining an excellent infrastructure. The streets are always clean and green. The MRT system is highly modernized and well-operated. Rules and disciplines are widely valued, which can be seen as the main source of Singapore’s attraction as the cleanest place on earth.

Singaporeans are definitely very impressive with their friendliness, helpfulness and good English skills. Singaporean students do express their understanding of different cultures existing in their country and their willingness to connect international friends. This explains why Singapore has been a fantastic destination for foreign tourists.

2.3. Vietnam impression

There were only four Vietnamese delegates in this conference (two were sponsored by Vietnam-Hawaii Relationship Organization; the others are currently studying abroad). However, all of us tried our best to draw international delegates’ attention to Vietnam. In the International Night, we brought Vietnamese culture to the conference with the traditional custom – “ao dai”, a traditional performance and a booth displaying national flag, Dong Ho pictures and Vietnamese badges. After that night, many delegates expressed their desire of visiting Vietnam in the near future. [4]

In addition, HPAIR conference is also an interesting place for Vietnamese students to speak out the ideas that need the backup from international friends in order to become a fruitful project. In my case, I have an idea of introducing Vietnamese Northern Mountainous culture to the world through a traditional specialty. Whether that idea becomes feasible or not depends much on whether I can set up an international network for that product. Luckily I could find many future entrepreneurs there who can become my partner, my supplier or even my customer in the future.

Besides, it was very interesting that I also met a European delegate in HPAIR who has a similar idea of maintaining and introducing culture through commercial products in several Asian countries. He seemed not to think of Vietnam as a destination before talking to me. Therefore, through this conference, I also had a chance of introducing to international future leaders about Vietnam as a potential investment destination.

3. Prospects

After the conference, I still keep in touch with many delegates of various nationalities. Recently I have found out some information of APAIR[5] and SPAIR[6] Germany, which act as the partners of HPAIR, organizing some seminars for students among the country and seeking financial aids for their members to participate in HPAIR conference. This kind of operation is what keeps students in their countries informed of HPAIR and helps those who would like to join the event get support from a national network. That is what Vietnamese students lack right now.

The fact that the past Vietnamese delegates have introduced very little about HPAIR to other students in this country is a big barrier keeping our students away. However, today, when Vietnamese delegates like me can perceive the importance of maintaining the relationship with international delegates from all over the world as well as establishing a national network for Vietnamese students, there would be a better chance for the next HPAIR conference to have more delegates from Vietnam, with better performance and higher impression. And from my personal perspective, only when Vietnamese students are well aware of this event and fully understand the importance of international relations that we can think of organizing a conference like that in Vietnam one day.

HPAIR Conference has been considered as a meeting place for future leaders. It was my great honor to be there, to learn new things, to discuss with interesting people and to set up the basis for many long-term relationships with talented delegates. From my point of view, in this global context of many cross-nation competitions as well as cooperation, this kind of forum is inevitably vital for the mutual development of every country in the future.

I would like to express my sincere thanks for HPAIR 2010 which has helped created a bridge linking different cultures and different ideas of the young minds from all over the world. I am also truly grateful for the support from Vietnam-Hawaii Relationship Organization, which has helped me join and modestly contribute to the conference this year. After attending the event, I strongly believe in the prospective of tomorrow collaboration between Vietnam and other nations, including the United States, to build up a better environment for interactive backup, growth and prosperity of each country.

[1] More detailed information can be found in the official website http://www.hpair.org

[2] Ambassador Wu Jianmin, Chinese Foreign Ministry – HPAIR conference speech

[3] Leitinger, T. (2010), No, we can’t! …at least not without Asia – HPAIR conference report.

[4] The International Night’s pictures are included in the attached file

[5] Academic Project for Austrian and International Relations

[6] The Student Project for Asian and International Relations (SPAIR) is the official networking club of the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Singapore, August 20-24, 2010


  1. Dear Linh,

    I just received the acceptance letter from HPAIR. However, I could not afford the cost to attend HPAIR. Could you please share with me your experience to get the sponsorship from Vietnam-Hawaii Relationship organization? I would really appreciate.

    Thank you and looking forward to your reply.

    Trần Như Trí


  2. Hi Tri,

    You got accepted to the HPAIR at Harvard Campus this year? Congratulations!
    That scholarship existed 7 years ago. Mr. Mels Sakaguchi, the founder of Vietnam-Hawaii organization, passed away last year and I am not sure if the program is still running – can you send me and email with your situation + CV to linhpmp@nyu.edu? If you are going to Boston, I can introduce you to my friends over there so that they can help host you there.


    1. Dear Ms. Linh

      Thank you so much for your kind reply.
      I have just sent you an email with the subject “HPAIR 2018 – Trần Như Trí”.
      I would be great if I could find stay with some hosts in Boston.

      Please let me know if you have received my email well.

      Once again, thank you for your kind consideration.

      Trần Như Trí


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