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Laura Browne

from NZAI, who once lived and studied in China for

more than a decade, noted that the billion-people country was not

merely stock market crashes, pollution, growing appetites for luxury

brands, which hit headlines worldwide. It was, instead, a complex

and segmented society featuring at one level wide generation gaps,

even between those of the “post 80’s” and “post 90’s”, with the former

commonly seen as being ambitious but naïve, and the latter worldly but

pessimistic. Yet given the fact that seven million new tertiary graduates

were added to the job market each year, observed Laura, both groups

felt uncertain about their future and hence adopted an attitude of

“living for the moment”. In other words, their looking for hobbies,

indulging in consumerism, touring the world and studying overseas,

including New Zealand, were by and large for “experiencing things

today”. This mentality also saw young Chinese promoting and practising

“togetherness” for fun through social networks, such as WeChat that

had 450 million monthly active users.

Sharing his extensive consulting and project managing experience

in Southeast Asia,

Chris Henderson

from Cognition Education Ltd

called for Kiwis who planned to build their careers in ASEAN countries

to invest in people and places there rather than only its markets. He

believed that by doing so, they would actually also invest in their own

abilities, including cultural competence, which in turn would help

open doors and cultivate relationships. He opined that those who

tried to connect to Southeast Asia should pay attention particularly to

Indonesia as its demographic dividend projected to continue for the

next 20 or so years indicated increasing numbers of young people,

growing entrepreneurship, more cutting-edge activities, and rising

purchasing power. Connecting with that social segment should provide

massive opportunities for New Zealand. Yet Chris also alerted the

audience about the fact that Kiwis might find it ever more challenging

to work as consultants in Indonesia. For to lower costs, institutions and

companies there increasingly sought to hire skilled young people from

countries like the Philippines and Thailand rather than from Western

nations. Indonesia’s intensifying competitive environment required New

Zealand to keep looking for new ways to sustain its effective business

engagement with that country.

Laura Browne, Researcher, New Zealand Asia Institute

Chris Henderson, Project Leader, Cognition Education