Inspired by Perspective

Scott Kronick

When I was a kid, I grew up believing if I dug a hole deep enough, I would reach China. That was my earliest memory of anything related to China. Years later, I loved watching David Carradine in Kung Fu with my brother, Brian. Brian would always ask me to “snatch the butterfly” from his hand, which would lead to our own rendition of a kung fu fight. Whether it was digging holes or imitating a kung fu scene, little did I know I would spend nearly half of my life on the other side of that hole.

The Very Best of Asia

For the past two weeks, I have been enjoying the very best of Asia. I have come to teach a course at Peking University in Beijing, and to meet several clients and former colleagues. In the meantime, I have traveled to Taipei, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and I am due to visit Bangkok and Singapore. Please forgive me, once again, for a heavy dose of self-indulgence with this post.

I have lived a very rich life recently, spending time with many close friends and eating way too much. In contrast to listening to the drumbeat of daily news about US-China conflict and how fragile this relationship is, it is heartwarming to spend time with many of my very close Chinese friends who recognize this but couldn’t care less. Certainly, broader geopolitical differences between the US and China are important, but I cannot stress enough how important people-to-people relations are to connecting in meaningful ways.

Three Decades in Asia

In June of 1991, nearly 34 years ago, I moved to Taiwan for what I thought would be for a few years working in another Ogilvy office across the globe. That move lasted approximately 30 years, as I met the love of my life in Taiwan, Li-Chin Wei, and shortly after we moved to Beijing for 25 years. In that time, we raised two wonderful bi-cultural kids and met people from all over the world. I can’t imagine my life over the past three decades if I didn’t leave the comforts of my environment in Michigan or New York.

I am writing all of this just to say that I have had a most wonderful experience living, working and returning to China. For those reading this blog in the US who have not traveled abroad, I highly recommend it. It will most definitely broaden your perspective. For those of you who have lived a similarly charmed life, with friends and colleagues of all persuasions, I believe you know what I am talking about.

Gaining Perspective

In reflecting on my life since moving, the greatest joy has come from recognizing the differences and learning about new cultures. I have eaten more duck than most Americans, and I drank boba tea before it became popular in the US. And, I still have much more to learn. I have not yet acquired a taste for stinky tofu, and I have yet to ever try a betelnut, and I’m pretty sure I never will. I have witnessed world leading businesses and industries evolve at lightning speed, and watched cities erect new roads and buildings overnight. The most satisfying thing has been watching the lives of many friends become much more prosperous and colorful. I used to say, the American Dream, the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved, is alive and well and exists in China for those willing to make the sacrifice.  And I have just loved participating in and observing it firsthand.

A Quick Tour

Sharing here just a quick tour of my travels and sources of delight.

Li Hong, the very first person I met when I arrived in China, is one of my closest friends to this day. He was my business partner when I started working in China, and he paved the way for a wonderful existence. In his semi-retirement he continues to do this. He was larger than life then and continues to make things happen for everyone around him. Here is Li Hong and me with TB Song, the godfather of Ogilvy in Greater China, and Li Hong and me with the movie director, Jiang Wen.

Lunch with the well-known entrepreneur and gymnast Li Ning together with his son and daughter-in-law in Hong Kong was a very special treat. Li Ning is one of the most accomplished and humble people I have had the delight to get to know in China.

Debby Cheung, my colleague who created the opportunity for Li Hong and me to open the Ogilvy office, was most welcoming in Hong Kong. She pulled together a wonderful meeting of former Ogilvy people below.

Clara Shek, who leads the Ogilvy office in Hong Kong and plays a crtical role in the Asia Pacific Region, hosted a warm welcome lunch, with friends Katryna Mojica and Ricky Hung.  Thank you Clara.

I did get whooped in golf by these three friends, who were former colleagues Frank Song, Selina Teng and Joe Zhou.

And it was a special treat spending a lunch with Ted Pflaker, Roberta Lipson, Joan Kaufman, Melinda Liu and Alan Babington-Smith for a weekend lunch in Beijing.

I was joined at Peking University by Gill Zhou, a former client and lifelong friend, who was a big hit, with all my students insisting on a picture.  Gill is the present President of Conde-Nast, the publisher of Vogue and GQ in China. Also pictured here are Ogilvy colleagues Mikko Lan, Iris Zhang and Toni Zhou.

In Shanghai, I was reunited with the famous Olive Ting, a former colleague from Taipei, thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Joe Yu, the current, very capable and first-class President of Ogilvy PR in China. I am just sorry I didn’t get a picture with the other folks I spent time with in Shanghai; Ruby Fu, Olivia Fung and Terry Rhoads, and Ogilvy colleagues Chris Reiterman, Yuan Yong, Tiffany Hu and Wendy Xue.

Finally, it wasn’t all Chinese. Here is me with my long-time friend Winter Wright in Shenzhen, along with my colleague, Mikko Lan. Ambassador to the Philippines, Jaime FlorCruz and his wife Ana, the well-known Jim McGregor, and I spent yesterday together at Ted Pflafker and Roberta Lipson’s Great Wall house, catching up. And a photo of a night out with a few of the remaining westerners in China, who are all inspirations to me in varying ways; Charlie Sampson, Stuart Lennie, Phil Tregaskis and Michael McDermott.

I think that is enough of the Scott Kronick travel digest these past few weeks. It’s been a very enjoyable visit, characterized by lots of connecting with old and new friends and way too much food.

I hope you have had as good a summer as I have recently. Being away from my loved ones can be lonely, but many of the people above, who have become my extended family over time, are definitely the next best thing. Have a great week ahead.

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Li Hong
Li Hong
15 days ago

Wow, Scott, it’s always as fabulous to see you and so many friends we have known through all these years!

Joyce beach
Joyce beach
15 days ago

That digging to China spoon you imagined is well worn. Until I spent 21 years at the “other end of the hole” I imagined the same as you. Far beyond borders and politics, your powerful MMM is chock full of wisdom and human connections; far beyond borders and politics.

13 days ago

Next stop KL !

Muffy MacKenzie
Muffy MacKenzie
12 days ago

I just love that you share your “living abroad” experiences with the rest of us. I think your perspective is so vitally important.
And by the way, I too tried digging that hole to China in our back yard…was that a Flint thing?
Also, I can’t believe how much you look like your dad in the picture with (I think) Debbie Cheung!
Please keep sharing your perspective so we can all learn from it.

Olivia Fang
Olivia Fang
12 days ago

Scott, it was wonderful seeing you in Shanghai. While I consider myself as a graduate from the best ‘school’ of public communications, I must say, it is person-to-person communication that often ‘steals the show’. And I really hope we won’t be the last generation of the human race who knows how to talk to each other face-to-face.

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