Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meeting with Reed Hundt, Former US FCC Chairman

It was a rare and precious occasion for me to have the opportunity to meet with Mr Reed Hundt, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under the Clinton Administration in the US, over lunch today. He was on a semi-business visit through Hong Kong, with his whole family – wife and sons and daughter. It was an informal gathering with Harvard and Yale alumni groups, and I was privileged to be invited to tag along with Rebecca Mackinnon, who had the connection of being part of Harvard's Berkman Center.

In his short remarks, Reed proudly told us he is an “Obama people.” He told of how he became such. Years ago when Barack Obama was still a state senator from Illinois, and he came to Washington, D.C. looking for donations and met with Reed. Reed asked him if Obama were a US Senator, would he vote for sending troops into Iraq? Obama said, “no,” because it would be the wrong thing to do. Reed was impressed that Obama would take up such a stance which was unpopular at the time, and he wrote out a cheque right there.

Reed also talked about how Obama's campaign told advantage of the Internet, and it was started by one volunteer working on a card table from home from scratch. Obama knew it was the only way for him to have a chance to compete with the then perceived front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton – gaining mass support, and the Internet was the only way to do it. For those who haven't yet, you really need to take a look at what Obama has been doing with his website.

Then, Reed turned to talk about his views the role of China and Asia in the tech market. (He is a board member of a number of technology firms in the US, in addition to being a consultant at McKinsey.) He believes between 2008 and 2012, China will top all segments of the technology market as a producer or provider, with a 5-10% lead over the US and other countries. Needless to say, the importance of China will grow, and the US technology community would like to see more Asian-friendly policies.

And, whoever gets to the White House in the end of this year (of course he hopes it would be Obama), Reed believes trade negotiation will resume between China and the US, the two biggest markets in the world. This is something that has been basically halted for the eight years under Bush. Intellectual property will be a key part of the discussion. Reed referred to the massive number of patents filed by Chinese entities in recent years, and from the technology community (US, assumed) point of view, Reed believes their position would want to see the number of these patents granted lowered, not increased. Also, Reed also believes there must be changes in how the US deals with cross-border ownership – like the rejection of the 3Com deal by US authorities.

Reed is also upbeat about a global trade deal on carbon emission, with a possible “Kyoto 2” deal in 2009, that will involve the US and China coming to some terms under some bilateral trade agreement. Once again, this is like the US coming back out of a recess of eight years under Bush.

It is a true privilege for me to meet someone of such stature, intellectual capacity and world view, and make a new friend.


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