Laurence J. Brahm is an American-born global activist, author, pioneer social enterprise entrepreneur, political-economist, international mediator, and lawyer based in Beijing and Lhasa, China. He is the founder of Himalayan Consensus, a NGO, and the African Consensus Movement, both dedicated to protecting ethnic diversity through sustainable economics. Brahm is also founder and CEO of Shambhala Serai, one of Asia’s first social enterprises.
Laurence Brahm studied Intensive Mandarin Language in 1981 at Nankai University in Tianjin, China near Beijing. In 1982, he studied Political Science Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Duke University in 1983. In 1987, he received both his Masters in Asian Studies with a major in Politics and a minor in Economics and Juris Doctor from the University of Hawaii School of Law and Center for Asian Pacific Studies. Laurence Brahm received his Masters in Law from the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law in 1989.
The idea that is Himalayan Consensus evolved from Brahm’s years as a central government advisor in Laos, in 1991-92, and Vietnam, . He opposed the “shock therapy” policy prescriptions of the Washington Consensus. During his advising years, Brahm began drafting the overarching financial reforms and accompanying policy legislation that led to economic take-off and continues to serve as the development framework for these countries to this day. He was one of the first people to refer to the term “compassionate capitalism”. Two decades later, Vietnam and Laos are examples of the success of Brahm’s policy advise.
Brahm advised for Cambodia, Mongolia, and China under the economist, former Premier Zhu Rongji. He worked with Zhu during the critical years that supervised China’s transition from Planned Economy to Market Economy. Brahm was a member of Zhu’s economic advisors that paved the way for China’s entry into the WTO in 2001. He considered his work on economic and monetary reform policy in Beijing to be finished. Laurence Brahm coined the phrase “China Century” theory which juxtaposed the “China Collapse” theory held by certain scholars in the West. Brahm documented the reforms that he personally witness in his biography of Zhu in “Zhu Rongli – the Transition of Modern China.” Laurence Brahm with former President Bill Clinton.
Following China’s entry into the WTO in 2001, Brahm shifted his focus from coastal China to the western regions, moving to the Himalayan Plateau. Since 2002, Laurence Brahm has refused any further engagement with multinational corporations as an investment advisor and strategist. In the following years, he formed Himalayan Consensus.
On the 30th anniversary of Open Door Policy, Laurence Brahm was selected by China Central TV as one of the ten non-political figures contributing to China’s economic opening and reform. He was the only foreigner chosen.
Himalayan Consensus, officially founded in 2005, is a NGO for protecting ethnic diversity, culture and environment and is a member of the United Nations Theme Group on Poverty and Inequality, United Nations Global Compact, and in the process of becoming a member of ECOSOC.
The three pillars that the Consensus was found on include: Supporting ethnic diversity and indigenous identity, through sustainable economic platforms such as micro-finance and social entrepreneurship, while prioritizing environmental protection and community development. This theory is a reaction to popular economic and development theories. Himalayan Consensus openly stands against theories that have been promoting across many developing countries that focus should be on rebuilding from the top down. Laurence Brahm’s theory endorses development from the group up. The local population need to be given the proper tools to develop economically while preserving culture and tradition. Laurence Brahm believes, “the Himalayan Consensus is based on one principle: preserving and maintaining ethnic diversity, culture, heritage and the environment through a sustainable economic platform.”
The Himalayan Consensus works towards empowering people with local pragmatism in place of globalization ideology and theory. Brahm’s theory has been called, “an innovative approach to development.” Laurence Brahm with Muhammad Yunus In 2009, Himalayan Consensus was invited by the United Nations to become a member of the United Nations Theme Group for Poverty and Inequality. The UN recognizes the Himalayan Consensus as an effort to reduce poverty levels while protecting cultural sustainability. Himalayan Consensus works with other groups who support the concept of micro-financing created by Muhammad Yunus to synthesize ideas and become a movement.
In March 2009, the concepts of the Himalayan Consensus were crystallized in Brahm’s latest book, “The Anti-Globalization Breakfast Club: Manifesto for a Peaceful Revolution”.
The Himalayan Consensus is an idea that turned into a series of tangible projects from documentaries, Searching for Shangri-la and Shambhala Sutra, filmed during Brahm’s 2002 trip to the Himalayas. In 2005, he began restoring various buildings in Tibet, and created geo-tourist lodges and emphasized the employment of locals and the use of local materials. Micro-finance programs were installed to help indigenous people establish their own enterprises while improving the economic conditions of the minority groups. Extensive programs of heritage building restoration, microequity empowerment for marginalized women and the handicapped, medical outreach programs (including establishing clinics in monasteries and campaigns to rid blindness among nomadic and poor populations, and the first free education Montessori school in a Tibetan Region.
Brahm is founder and CEO of Shambhala Serai, which is a sustainable heritage and eco-tourism boutique hotel group in Tibet and Beijing that supports programs for heritage restoration, disabled employment, women empowerment, medical outreach and education. It is also one of the first social enterprises in China. Shambhala Serai emphasizes women, disabled, and individuals with little or no access to education. The NY Times has called House of Shambhala Lhasa’s, “first high-end boutique hotel, with elegant suites, a yoga center and a Tibetan crafts shop, it seeks to revive Tibetan arts and train Tibetans in tourism management.”
Laurence Brahm was criticized after his prediction that China’s economy will rise to the largest in the world, in his book “China as No. 1”. This idea was hotly debated because many people did not expect China to achieve such rank. In 2001, he published “China Century”, which stated the argument on China Century.
The argument says that England ruled the 19th century, United States ruled the 20th century, and China with rule the 21st century. A debate began from those who advocated the collapse of China in the 21st century, such as Gordon Chang. Since 1990, Shock therapists argued against Brahm’s theory of gradual reforms, and sequenced approach used in Vietnam, Laos, and China. Laurence Brahm has been referred to as too pro-China. Brahm’s near-decade long South China Morning Post column was cancelled in 2009.
It is said that he is “black listed” from the SCMP. The reason being that his column was too controversial. Brahm came into sharp criticism predicting the rise of the Chinese currency as a global currency. His article published by the Center for Strategic International Studies for Pacnet. Many opposers responded saying, “Laurence Brahm does not know what he is talking about. There is no long-term significance in the fact that China and other countries are buying SDR-denominated “bonds” from the IMF.”
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