Tiger Profile: Edith Terry

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Edith Terry is managing director of Cotton Tree Advisors, a consultancy on East Asian business and public affairs. Ms. Terry’s career has spanned policy research, strategic consulting on East Asia for major multinationals and journalism, and she has also lectured on East Asian business and international relations in universities and thnk tanks. In 1980, she was among the first American business people based in Beijing, and she has been engaged not only with China but also Japan and Southeast Asia for over 30 years. She is fluent in Putonghua (Mandarin) and Japanese and proficient in Cantonese.

In Hong Kong since 2000, Ms. Terry has been opinion editor of the South China Morning Post and served as a senior advisor to the Chairman of Hong Kong’s Council for Sustainable Development. As a consultant, she has provided strategy and content for thought leadership programs, conducted political and economic risk analysis and crafted communications strategies.  Her clients range from senior business and political leaders to regional trade associations and multinationals.          

As part of her public service, Ms. Terry has been chairperson of the Environment Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, chair of Democrats Abroad Hong Kong and a member of the Strategic Subcommittee of the Hong Kong Council for Sustainable Development. Currently, she is a member of the Hong Kong Forum, an affiliate of the Council on Foreign Relations, a visiting fellow at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Center of Environment, Energy and Resource Policy and an adjunct professor at the HKUST business school.

Prior to moving to Hong Kong, Ms. Terry served roles in business, think tanks and journalism, most often with a focus on East Asia. In the late 1990s, working for a major energy company, she helped to open the previously closed Japanese market for independent power, while building senior networks in government and civil society in East Asia for the same large energy company. For most of the 1990s, she was based in think tanks in Asia and the US, focusing on economic growth and geography issues of East Asia and Southeast Asia and tracking the Asian financial crisis of 1997-8 and its aftermath. In the 1980s and early 1990s, she worked as a journalist on Canada, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. As a journalist, she covered the rise and fall of Japan’s bubble economy as well as the height of the junk bond era in North America for the Globe and Mail Newspaper and BusinessWeek magazine. In the 1970s and early 80s, Ms. Terry was one of the first generation of Americans entering the China market as Beijing representative for Altman, Inc., a company that provided market entry services to a range of multinationals.

Ms. Terry is the author of an intellectual history of the East Asian economic model, How Asia Got Rich: Japan, China and the Asian Miracle (2003) as well as one of the earliest guides to doing business with China, The Executive Guide to China  (1984). How Asia Got Rich was the subject of a number of prestigious grants and awards including a Fulbright Pacific Rim Fellowship, Center for Global Partnership Abe fellowship, and the Journalist in Residence award at the East-West Center in Honolulu, where she began her research. In addition to her books, she has numerous publications on topics ranging from Japanese governance to Asian urbanization and climate change to industrial restructuring in the Pearl River Delta and Hong Kong design and architecture. She has also written a weekly column for the South China Morning Post, and currently maintains a blog, The Hong Kong Note.

Ms. Terry’s degrees are from Yale University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Affairs. She has also studied Chinese and Japanese language at Stanford University, Middlebury College and the University of Hawaii, and has lived in Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, China, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as Canada and the US. She is active in dragon boating and outrigger canoeing and has completed five marathons.

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