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Asia Update Conference 2019:
Globalising Asia
May 9-10, Tartu, Estonia

“Asia Update” is an international conference series organised by Enterprise Estonia in cooperation with Tartu University, Tallinn University, Taltech, Tartu City and other relevant ministries and enterprises.

“Asia Update 2019” addressed important topics related to the developments concerning Asia. The conference aimed to launch discussions on what globalising Asia means to the world and more specifically to our region. The conference brought together local, regional and international experts, business people, decision-makers and implementers who engage with Asia to share ideas and build networks for future growth and development.

Time: May 9-10, 2019
Venue: Tartu city, Estonia (V Spa Hotel Conference Centre)

Co-organisers and supporters of “Asia Update 2019”

Sponsors of “Asia Update 2019”




May 9


Registration and welcome coffee


Opening words by the conference moderator Margo Loor


Opening words by the Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid


Keynote: “Asia on the global stage – A conflict forecaster’s perspective”
Pulkit Jaiswal (SwarmX, Garuda Robotics)
The world has become increasingly globalized, but also increasingly polarized with conflict – the China-U.S. trade war, climate change, increase in the extreme political movements as some of the key issues. Among the geopolitical turmoil there is an opportunity for Asia and the emerging economies to benefit from the increasing globalisation and new market trends while the Western world continues to stagnate in the turmoil. How to see this new globalising world and how to perceive globalising Asia? What kind of opportunities does it provide to the world? What could European/Western countries do to make this process more beneficial for common growth and development?


Keynote: “Asia – the view from the bottom. Insights on inclusion and impact investing”
Royston Braganza (Grameen Capital India)


Coffee break


Panel discussion: “Asian investments in digital technologies – what does it mean for the rest?”
Moderator: Taavi Rõivas (Former Prime Minister of Estonia)
Speakers: S Mahendran (CIO Academy Asia), Pulkit Jaiswal (SwarmX, Garuda Robotics), Mittu Chandilya (CS Group, former AirAsia, Adani Logistics Limited), Takehiko Nagumo (Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. Ltd.), Cao Yin (Digital Renaissance Foundation)
While the West and foremost the USA have been dominating the digital technologies scene for a long time, we have today reached a point where Asia is steadily moving to challenge the global tech leadership. While investing heavily in acquiring and developing new innovative solutions in areas such as AI, VR and 5G they have leapfrogged over several stages of technological development, and are today home to many innovative solutions, functioning smart cities and global tech giants. This has raised some questions. How has Asia reached the current situation and what have been the contributing factors to this rapid change and innovation? How does the digital agenda differ from country to country in Asia?  With Asian companies heavily investing into our tech businesses, should we embrace or fear the situation? Should the Western countries fear Asia overtaking them in technological development and how should we move forward?




Walk to networking reception (5min walk from the conference venue)


Welcome words by the Mayor of Tartu Mr. Urmas Klaas and Rector of the University of Tartu Mr. Toomas Asser
Networking Reception hosted by the Tartu City Government (at Science Centre AHHAA)


Night owl session: “Looking into the future: imagining the world led by Beijing”
Moderator: Liisi Karindi (China Expert, Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Estonia)
Speakers: Jürgen Steiger (German-China Cooperation Advisor, GIZ), Ivana Karaskova (Founder of ChinfluenCE and CHOICE Projects),  Jayadeva Ranade (President of Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, Former Cabinet Secretary), Zhang Xiaotian (Associate Vice President of Shanghai University, Entrepreneur)
China’s growing world dominance has been discussed for long and, especially after president Trump came to power, China has been seen as gradually taking over the global leadership position from the USA. The “rise of China” causes fear – even though China itself has labelled it as “peaceful”. In addition to military aspects, many members of the Western value system also feel themselves threatened by China’s political and ideological system. However, how could the world under Chinese leadership really look like?

May 10


Breakfast sessions

The three sessions below are parallel and take place in different rooms. Participants can choose their preference during registration.

Session 1
“The role of  USA in EU-Asia relations”

Moderator: Marko Mihkelson (Estonian Parliament)
Speakers: Richard Dunham (Tsinghua University, China), Lars Freden (Swedish Diplomat), Brian Whitmore (Centre for European Policy Analysis, USA), Johannes Thimm (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)
The United States has played a significant part in Asia, both militarily as well as culturally and economically. Historically, Asian countries have allied with one or the other, whereas these alliances, at least for some, could as well be interchangeable according to situation and needs. However, what role does the USA play in the relations between EU and Asia and what kind of impact will today’s political tensions between the USA and Asia have on the future of EU-Asia relations?

Session 2
“Who needs the language skills – there’s an app! Human skills vs technologies” 

Moderator: Ott Jalakas (Lingvist)
Speakers: Carl-Johan Westring (EF Education First), Neelakshi Premawardhena (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka), Rauno Sainio (translator), Varun Sharma (entrepreneur, former E-Residency team)
We live in the age of technology and become more and more reliant on it. Technologies are indeed very helpful and in many cases make our lives more efficient as well as open up new opportunities. While travelling, we can use apps to translate foreign words or use Google translate to get access to online contents – even in complicated Asian languages! That being the case, questions arise: is it still important to learn these languages? What is the value of having a language skill vs just using the technology? Who needs people with such skills?

Session 3
“Asian consumers’ impact on global marketing: opportunities for small countries” 

Moderator: Rafael Jimenez (China Expert, EAS)
Speakers: Felim Meade (Emerald Green Consulting), Jimmy Adams (Moot China), Zhang Xiaotian (Shanghai University), Raul Allikivi (Planetway Japan)
As they gain wealth and prosper, Asian consumers are becoming a new power in global marketing and an important target group for international companies. Their beloved technologies also enter the European/Western markets, advertising industry addresses them, signs and websites are translated, e-commerce channels used for reaching out to them… However, it is not easy to sell to Asia – even for bigger companies. So, how can companies from smaller countries benefit from these channels and trends?




The two keynote speeches below are parallel and take place in different rooms.

Keynote: “Asia – an opportunity of a lifetime”
Speaker: Xenia Joost (fashion designer, marketing expert)
Asia offers challenges and opportunities to those who dare to venture into these exotic faraway countries. Some go to stay, others return home, bringing along the wealth of experiences and networks. So, what to think of life and work in globalising Asia? What kind of opportunities are out there to be discovered?

Keynote: “Borderless world and Estonia’s role in it”
Speaker: Ott Vatter (Managing Director of  E-Residency)
Creating a world without borders has been a dream, which in Europe has manifested itself in the establishment of the Single Market approach. In addition to abolishing physical borders, Estonia has played an important role in creating an EU Digital Single Market. But what does Estonia have to offer on the global scale and to Asia?


The two panel discussions below are parallel and take place in different rooms.

Panel: “Developing and managing a career in Asia”
Moderator: Urmas Hõbepappel (University of Tartu)
Speakers: Viljar Lubi (Vice-Minister, Ministry of Economy), Jens Põld (WorkVenture), Anita Smirnova (actress), Joseph Lau (Strategy Expert), Xenia Joost (fashion designer, marketing expert)
Whether still a student or someone with a family – it’s sometimes hard to know the right offers and supportive structures to make use of when planning a career in Asia. But sometimes all that’s needed is just the yearning for adventure and having some courage to leave the comfort zone. So, why to choose Asia for the personal career development? How to successfully manage a career in Asia and what support to use?

Panel: “Digital technologies and borderless economies”
Moderator: Tobias Johannes Koch (E-Briefing Centre, Enterprise Estonia)
Speakers: Cao Yin (Digital Renaissance Foundation), Allan Martinson (LeapIN), Kentaro Morita (Former Economic Attache of Japanese Embassy in Estonia), Priit Martinson (PwC)
Remote workplaces are just as common today as are the freelancers who travel around the world and live and work as “digital nomads”, using co-work spaces if needed. This is all enabled by digital technologies and understanding that, for successful business, physical presence is not always needed. Does that also work in Asia? Or what kind of opportunities do Asian “digital nomads” get offered in Europe/Estonia?


Conference lunch


Keynote Speech “Cross-border E-commerce by NetEase Kaola – the Gateway to the China Consuming Market”

Sean Wang (VP of Netease Kaola) 


Panel discussion: “Small states and big markets: what can we offer to Asia?”
Moderator: Sonny Aswani (Tolaram Group, Estonian Honorary Consul in Singapore)
Speakers: Colum Rice (PwC New-Zealand), Ansi Arumeel (Omniva), Bernard Piette (Logistics in Wallonia), Sean Wang (Netease Kaola, China), Carl-Johan Westring (EF Education)
Compared to Asia, Europe mostly consists of small countries, which may find it challenging to establish equal partnerships with their Asian counterparts. However, does the size of a country matter? If so, how to overcome this challenge and find opportunities in/with Asia in terms of business, culture or education? How should governments support this?


Wrap-up by the conference moderator


Networking reception for participants and speakers at VSPA Hotel Conference Centre


Kersti Kaljulaid_!
Kersti Kaljulaid

President of the Republic of Estonia

Yoko Ishikura

Hitotsubashi University, World Economic Forum
Professor Emeritus, Independent Consultant

sean wang
Sean Wang

NetEase Kaola (China)
Vice President

royston (1)
Royston Braganza

Grameen Capital India

Pulkit Jaiswal

Stealth Mode Venture (SwarmX, Garuda Robotics)

Mr Ranade (1) (002)
Jayadeva Ranade

Centre for China Analysis and Strategy
President (Former additional secretary, Government of India)

Taavi Rõivas

Estonian Parliament
Prime Minister of Estonia (2014-2016)

Colum Rice

PwC New-Zealand

Brian Whitmore
Brian Whitmore

Center for European Policy Analysis
Senior Fellow, Director of Russia Program

Mittu Chandilya

CS Group (Former Air Asia, Adani Logistics)

Carl-Johan Westring

EF Education First

Richard Dunham_1
Richard Dunham

Tsinghua University
Co-director, Global Business Journalism Program

Sonny Aswani

Tolaram Group

Bernard Piette

Logistics in Wallonia
General Manager

Lars Freden

Former Swedish Ambassador to China and Mongolia

Neelakshi Premawardhena

University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Professor of Modern Languages

Viljar Lubi

Ministry of Economic Affairs (Estonia)
Vice-Minister/Deputy Secretary General

Jürgen Steiger_1
Jürgen Steiger

Senior Advisor

SMahendran_Pic new
S Mahendran

CIO Academy Asia

Zhang Xiaotian

Shanghai University
Deputy Vice President

Ivana Karásková

Association for International Affairs
Research fellow

Felim Meade

Emerald Green Consulting

Joseph Lau1
Joseph Lau

Various organisations in Singapore
Training consultant

Allan Martinson


Cao Yin

Digital Renaissance Foundation
Founding Partner

Xenia Joost

Fashion designer

Marko Mihkelson

Estonian Parliament
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Jens Põld1
Jens Põld

WorkVenture Technologies


Kentaro Morita
Kentaro Morita

Former Economic Attache of the Japanese Embassy in Estonia

Ott Jalakas


Takehito Nagumo
Takehiko Nagumo

Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. Ltd.
Managing Executive Officer

Johannes Thimm

German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)
Senior fellow

Ott Vatter

Managing Director

Raul Allikivi

Planetway Corporation
Member of the Board, Chief Relations Officer (CRO)

Jimmy Adams

Moot China
Partner/ Creative consultant

Ansi Arumeel


Rafael Jimenez

China Expert

Tobias Johannes Koch

 e-Estonia Briefing Centre
Business Engagement Manager

Priit Martinson

PwC Eesti
Government Technology
Digital Transformation Leader

Liisi Karindi

Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Estonia
China Expert

Anita Smirnova

Actress, model

Rauno Sainio


Urmas Hõbepappel

Researcher, teacher, and entrepreneur

Varun sharma
Varun Sharma


Former Head of Partnerships at E-Residency

Margo_Loor_SpeakSmart (2)_block
Margo Loor



Please be advised: speakers, panels and agendas may be subject to change.

Additional Information

Asia Update 2019: Globalising Asia is a high profile conference that brings together politicians and decision-makers, experts, entrepreneurs, and academics and encourages discussions on Asia. The conference is invitation-only, but a few seats are also opened for registration.

If you are interested in sponsoring the event, joining the conference as a journalist or as a visitor, please contact conference organizers at [email protected].

The conference is sponsored by Toppan Printing, Eversheds Sutherland and Horizon Pulp & Paper.

If you have already received an invitation and given your RSVP to the invitation, we suggest you to also look into our recommendations for accommodation in Tartu. We are glad to say that our partner hotels in Tartu are offering our guests special prices for accommodation during their stay in Tartu. More information can be found from the following website.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the conference organizers via email [email protected].


Conference venue:
V Spa Conference Hotel
Hotel main entrance is on the corner of Aleksandri and Soola street.

Reception venue:
Science Centre AHHAA


For further information, please contact [email protected]