How Was the Change from Working in the West?

Danny Quah
Mar 2023

(Not something particularly uplifting or to take pride in but I figure if it helps anyone else out there think things through...)

Q: "How has the change been from working in the West to being back here?"

DQ: Well, you already know what I think about the shift in the world's economic center and where the greatest, most challenging questions lie. But true, at a recent conference here in Singapore, a friend of mine from a top US economics department came up to me and said, "I see you've returned here now. Taken the easy way out, right? Decided you couldn't any more hack the intensity of intellectual work at the frontier?"

This made me think many things of course, among them, how so much of the West reckons, "Unless you're here with us in the center, you're off the map, and might as well be written off." Geographical distance, however, is just one of many possible separations. Perhaps even more acute a problem is when a researcher, with the best and noblest of scholarly intentions, decides to work on issues outside the conventional. He could be developing cutting-edge tools to do so, the same way as when he was attacking other more familiar problems. But if outsiders don't see past the most obvious of differences, all they'll assume is someone no longer participating in the same domain that they are, and therefore must not any more be a central player.

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