Senior foreign and domestic government officials and chief executives of many of the world’s largest companies met with AEI scholars June 25-28 at the 17th World Forum. At the annual event, held in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and hosted by former president and AEI Distinguished Fellow Gerald R. Ford, participants discussed significant economic, political, and security issues facing the United States and the world.
At this year’s meeting, Lady Margaret Thatcher and Václav Klaus, former prime ministers of the United Kingdom and of the Czech Republic, respectively, gave the opening speeches.
Lady Thatcher devoted much of her speech to the economic problems in Asia and their social and political consequences. "Not so long ago we were all inclined to overlook the weaknesses of the Far Eastern economies and concentrate on their strengths. Those strengths were real: in particular, industrious work forces, enterprising businessmen, and excellent design and engineering skills. The strengths are still there. But they have now been overtaken by still more pervasive weaknesses: corruption and cronyism bred by in cestuous interventionism, lack of soundness and transparency in the financial sector, and a failure to develop the political framework and skills needed in advanced industrial and post- industrial societies."
She further observed that comparisons of China and Japan often favor China. "But let’s remember," she added, "that Japan’s problems are those of a highly sophisticated economy; China’s successes are those of rudimentary quasi-capitalism."
Mr. Klaus spoke about the main challenges facing Europe, but first he debunked "fictitious challenges," including deepening the European Union. "Deepening, in my understanding, means more statism, more rules, [and] growing distance from individual citizens of decision making in crucial matters." His harshest criticism, however, was reserved for the call to protect Europe "from American influence, culture, lifestyle, and products."
"I am frustrated by the undisguised undertone of anti-Americanism which is often present in European Union deliberations," he said. "I prefer free Europe to strong, protected, and monolithic Europe. As a liberal (in the European sense) I do not think in terms of continents and their relative powers. I am not afraid of American values, life-styles, and approaches to human activities, even if I will never drink Coke or eat hamburgers. As someone who spent most of his life in a closed society, I prefer openness to closedness, freedom to somebody’s definition of justice or equality, markets to continental bureaucracies. And this is the main problem of Europe at the end of the 20th century."