Asia 'Game Changers' honored at UN

Updated: 2014-10-17 13:10

By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)

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Asia 'Game Changers' honored at UN

Jack Ma (left), founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, takes a photo with Josette Sheeran, president of the Asia Society, at Asia Game Changer Awards gala in New York on Thursday. Ma is the society's Asia Game Changer of the Year. Provided to China Daily

In a year in which Chinese spending and investments have dominated the headlines, a number of significant achievements by people in Asia have received little notice.

The Asia Society is working to make sure those individuals receive their just due.

On Thursday, 13 people were honored by the Asia Society as part of the organization's inaugural Asia Game Changer Awards. And more than 300 invited guests attended the dinner gala, including a number of foreign diplomats and representatives of the United Nations.

Josette Sheeran, president and CEO of the Asia Society, said the event is geared toward recognizing those individuals who have made a significant difference for people in Asia and around the world.

"What does it mean to be a game-changer?" Sheeran asked during the opening remarks at Thursday's dinner gala. "It really means those who have inspired the world to do things differently."

"And it's very meaningful for us to be here at the UN because there's a tremendous amount of good that gets done here," she said.

Another plus is that the recipients come from a wide range of fields, said Sheeran, including business, education, and arts and culture.

Tom Nagorski, executive vice-president of the Asia Society, told China Daily that the bakers' dozen chosen to receive this year's awards were selected from more than 1,000 nominations.

Jack Ma, executive chairman and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and Zhang Minxuan, a professor at Shanghai Normal University, were the two Chinese awardees honored at this year's ceremony.

Ma, who addressed a group of nearly 300 invited guests at Thursday's event, was chosen as this year's Asia Society "Asia Game Changer of the Year" for his company's work and philanthropic vision.

The Chinese e-commerce giant co-founded by Ma became the largest IPO ever when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange last month, netting the company more than $21 billion in the process. The 49-year-old is China's richest man, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, and he was also named the richest man in China this year by the Shanghai-based research group Hurun Report.

And Ma has been gaining more attention for his devotion to philanthropy of late. Earlier this year, Ma set up a $3 billion charity trust, equal to about 2 percent of his company's current equity.

Zhang, with Shanghai Normal University, said: "Although the Asia Society invited me, I am here because of all the hard work of the Chinese people. I can only be a representative here because of them."

Zhang has worked for the past three decades to bring high-quality education to Shanghai and more than 20 million Chinese children of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

He also has worked with the Asia Society to encourage Shanghai's participation in the organization's Global Cities Education Network.

He also said he hoped the first edition of the Asia Society's Game Changer awards would encourage people to extend the work they are doing throughout the Asian region.

"Of course it's an honor, but I never considered being invited by a foreign organization to see and showcase our work in China," Zhang said in an interview Thursday with China Daily.

"Shanghai is only a part of what we're doing, so we have a long way to go, and we should work hard for all the kids. In the future, maybe I won't just do work for China but also maybe for many other countries in Asia."

Ban Ki-moon, the UN's secretary-general, said during a speech on Thursday: "An Asia on the rise means a world on the rise. I'm proud to be a son of Asia but I'm not blind to the region's challenges and problems. This is where the Asia Society can play a very important role."

(China Daily USA 10/17/2014 page1)