John Forbes Nash looks nothing like Russell Crowe.
But the two men are similar in one way. Nash, who won a Nobel Prize in economics in 1994, has been getting the same paparazzi treatment usually reserved for stars like Crowe, the Australian actor who portrayed Nash in the Oscar-winning film "A Beautiful Mind."
Beijing just threw a three-day bash worthy of Hollywood royals, but it was in honour of 12 of the world's best economists, known for their brilliant brains rather than their glamorous looks.
The gathering, known as Nobel Laureates Beijing Forum 2005, saw nuggets of insight and sparks of wisdom. The participants' thoughts on economic theories might not be easy to digest in 30-minute morsels, but still provided inspiration for various discussions on what the Chinese economy may come up against as it hurtles forward.
As economists, they overwhelmingly supported the removal of trade barriers such as quotas on imports of Chinese textiles. They offered different takes on whether China should revalue its currency. Some wondered why the United States is actively pursuing the appreciation of the yuan, which they did not think would even benefit the United States.
Still others showed common sense, talking of how visa applications could be made easier for the 2008 Olympics. This would give more international tourists more of an incentive to come to Beijing.
The group were generally optimistic about the future of China's economy, but also pointed out some of the potential pitfalls that may lie ahead. They believed free trade is deeply rooted in the human desire for a better life, and governments around the world need to ease the pain of transition for sectors of the population that are affected.
On Wednesday, the experts were dispersed to various college campuses around the city to talk to students, who crowded around the podiums and listened to every word they uttered.
"It is an honour to be in the presence of these Nobel laureates," said one student at the University of International Business and Economics. But he admitted that, to students like him, remarks by Nobel prize winners do more to satisfy an obsession with status symbols than give concrete advice that can be put into instant use.
John Nash looked very tired of the fuss. To those tabloid reporters who were looking at him through the prism of Russell Crowe, he had just one comment: "This is something I don't want to talk about."