Mission & History


Asia Society is the leading educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, the Society provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to address present challenges and create a shared future.


Asia Society was founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd. Initially established to promote greater knowledge of Asia in the US, the Society today is a global institution — with offices throughout the US and Asia — that fulfills its educational mandate through a wide range of cross-disciplinary programming. As economies and cultures become more interconnected, the Society's programs have expanded to address Asian American issues, the effects of globalization, and pressing concerns in Asia including the status of women, environmental challenges, and rapid urbanization.

In 2011, Asia Society appointed its first-ever Co-Chairs on both sides of the Pacific Ocean to reflect the rise of global interdependence and growing regional partnerships. Business leader Henrietta Holsman Fore, a former senior U.S. Government official who served as the first female chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Ronnie C. Chan, one of Hong Kong's and China's top property developers, investors and philanthropists, assumed joint leadership of the Asia Society Board of Trustees. She is the first woman, and he the first Asian, to lead the Board.

The global center of gravity is shifting toward the fast-growing economies and countries of Asia," Ms. Fore said. "Asia Society is thinking creatively about how to adapt and grow as the 21st century’s most important relationship finds a new balance."

Mr. Chan said "Asia Society is one of the first organizations of its kind, if not the very first, to create an internal structure that recognizes the true partnership between the two sides of the Pacific Ocean."

The creation of a joint chairmanship is a milestone for Asia Society as it implements an ambitious expansion plan that includes the construction of multimillion-dollar centers with museum and public programming facilities in Hong Kong and Houston, complementing the renowned cultural and thought leadership role of its New York headquarters. Video: Meet Our Co-Chairs.

"The institution's focus covers more than 50 countries and territories. It is imperative that we understand and connect peoples and cultures so political and economic cooperation can deepen," said Asia Society President Emerita Vishakha N. Desai.

Here's what some leading figures have said about Asia Society:

"Over the years, the Asia Society has endeavored to strengthen US-Asia exchanges and cooperation and promote China-US relations, and I wish to express to you my appreciation for all this."
— President Hu Jintao, The People’s Republic of China

"...the Society has been invaluable in bringing together a wide variety of opinions on the encounter between Asia and the United States ... and has contributed to the transformation in India-U.S. ties manifest in recent times."
— Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, India

"The Asia Society has been playing an important role in deepening ties and understanding among the peoples of Asia-Pacific and the United States. I truly expect the Asia Society will enhance this role for furthering the region's stability and prosperity."
— Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe

"The Asia Society has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about Asia among Americans and to strengthen relations between Asia and the United States."
— Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United Nations

"At a time when the eyes of the world are on Asia, this institution is indispensable."
— The New York Times