CroAsia mini conference held at ZSEM

On Wednesday, 15th of December, 2021, a mini-conference under the name “Croatia and Asia – Desires, Expectations, Potentials, and Realities in Pandemic Globalism,” was held at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM). The conference was organized by ZSEM and the CroAsia Institute, which ZSEM founded as the first Croatian scientific, educational, and business institution to link Croatia and southeast Europe with China and Asia.

The conference was based on the fact that the Asian market has a lot of untapped potentials and that Croatia should continue to build links to that part of the world.

The mini-conference consisted of two panels where participants shared their experiences and visions on cooperation with Asian countries. The importance of this conference, as well as the activities of the Croasia Institute, is in the expansion of systematic knowledge of the possibilities of Asia because, by the words of dean Mato Njavro, Ph.D., ‘you do not have to be genius to realize that something big is happening in Asia, while at the same time Croatia does not use it enough.”

During the first panel, Dean Mato Njavro, Ph. D., explained the connection of the Croasia Institute and ZSEM, which lies in a strong relationship with Asia, established through student exchange (both directions) and stressed that they want to strengthen the Asian-Croatian relations further. Thanks to successful cooperation with academic institutions in Asia, ZSEM students can exchange in one of the most prestigious universities such as East China University of Science and Technology, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, Hong Kong Baptist Nanyang Technological University, and Singapore Management University.

“Wherever you lived in the world, you’re somehow connected to Asia. What happens to the whole world is happening there. China has become a factory of the world; you can not talk about supply chains without China, “

-said dean Mato Njavro in the introductory part of the first panel.

Panelists that participated in the first-panel discussion under the name of ‘Global Opportunities’ were H. E. Kaji Misako, Ambassador of Japan in the Republic of Croatia, H. E. Raj Kumar Srivastava, Ambassador of India in the Republic of Croatia, and Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, a special adviser to the Dean of ZSEM for international projects.

H. E. Misako emphasized the importance of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” phrase, which otherwise includes Indo-Pacific countries with similar interests in the region. H.E. believes that almost the whole world will depend on what is happening in that part.

“What is thought under this concept is that an individual can manage their future, also that regions themselves can choose their system, but also work under their laws. And openly, to be open to all who want to work on the rules. We approach the idea that something is developing in the Pacific part of the world

– explained ambassador Misako and added that the E.U. first recognized its importance and should support every cooperation between Croatia and Japan.

In the context of the turnaround in the economy, the Ambassador of India pointed out that one of the key factors was to focus on humans instead of profit.

“There are two essential things; these are democracy and demography. It is vital to put people in the focus of action, whether a climate question or another, “

– ambassador  Srivastava pointed out.

In the tone of the mentioned democracy, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, answering the question, referred to the different definitions of democracy in the West, China, and Russia. She explained that Western countries define democracy only as liberal democracy, while China and Russia believe that democracy has several forms. It is this difference, he believes, that has become one of the critical differences and obstacles between countries with two different ends of the world.

Furthermore, she pointed out that the turn of the USA and the EU towards Asia, especially China, differs because everyone in America agrees on seeing China as a competition. In contrast, Europe does not look at China in a competitive sense. In addition, Grabar Kitarović commented on Croatia’s possibilities and pointed out that Croatia’s ambitions should be much greater regardless of the size of the country. She pointed out that investments in Croatia should be encouraged, especially when it comes to transport, digital, and energy infrastructure. She added that the cooperation between Asia and Croatia should be focused on the IT industry.

The topic of the second panel discussion was ‘Politics, Foreign Affairs, and Security, where the speakers commented on ways of cooperation, some obstacles and shared real experiences of their work and life in China, Japan, and other countries.

Ivica Bakota, from Capital Normal University in China, pointed out that talking about China’s impact on the world, especially since the pandemic, is controversial. Although he believes that Croatia has an excellent predisposition to cooperate with China, which has been evident in some projects, he understands many countries’ problems with China. Having seen two extreme options – either competing with China or cooperating too much.

“We need to find a balance to achieve good cooperation.”

– Mr. Bakota explained.

But apart from China, Russia is an essential country in the East that is currently in a wrong position to cooperate. Branimir Vidmarović, a professor at the University of Pula, pointed out that although we have good cooperation with Russia, we are greatly influenced by politics on this issue, so he is not optimistic about the expected future. He sees the problem as the fact that today there is no dialogue, especially on the part of Europe, and everything is seen from the perspective of security.

“There is a lack of will in the EU to negotiate and understand Russia’s decision and position.”

– Professor Vidmarović explained.

Robert Mikac, a professor at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb, also commented on security, explaining the issue’s complexity and adding that Croatia should work on ‘cyber’ security.

Considering his work in Asian countries and life in Japan and China, among the panelists, were Nikola Pavešić, director of startups at Infobip, and Damir Firšt, co-founder and chief creative director of Matterless Studio. They both agreed that the Asian market is an excellent opportunity, mainly because it is enormous and that not only can one become a part of it, but one must if one wants to go global.

“The greatness of Asia is the greatness of opportunity. If you are from Croatia, which is a small market, you have to look outside if you want to grow. For example, in Japan, which is a big market in itself, you don’t have to go out of it. People need to see how big these markets are and expand and grow even more. That’s why we need to research and adapt. “

– Mr. Pavešić explained.

Mr. First explained that the difference between the domestic and the Chinese market is that the people there are pragmatic, and everyone is ready to implement technology to make something easier for them. In addition, many things currently popular in Europe have been standard in China for some time, so in general, due to the accelerated progress, their market has good potential.

“A lot of people, a lot of opportunities, plus the background that China has and a few more items create an almost limitless market for any technology product.”

– Mr. Firšt explained.

Finally, they encouraged young people to explore upcoming innovations, such as the new expanded Internet, and expand products globally.

Mini conference "Croatia and Asia - desires, expectations, potentials and realities in post-pandemic globalism"