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'Spirit of the Global Asia Society' Alive in Zurich

Asia Society Switzerland Celebrates Official Launch
by Tom Nagorski
19 January 2016

ZURICH, January 18, 2016 — It's official: The Asia Society has arrived in Europe. Six decades after John D. Rockefeller 3rd established the organization with a single New York office dedicated to bulding bridges of understanding‎ between the United States and Asia, the organization officially opened Asia Society Switzerland, it's 12th center and first in Europe.

Asia Society Co-Chair Henrietta Fore — whose mother was Swiss — invoked Rockefeller in a welcome address to more than 120 guests at a Zurich launch event on Monday. "He was a master at building those bridges to Asia," Fore said. "And Europe and Europeans today are looking to the East. They crave those bridges as well."

Adrian T. Keller, chairman of DKSH and chair of the new center, said, "We come here in the spirit of the global Asia Society." He pledged a program that would mirror Asia Society's longstanding commitment to policy, arts and education.

Other Asia Society trustees at the Swiss Center include Vice Chair Raymond J. Baer, honorary chairman of the board at Julius Baer Group; Uli Sigg, former Swiss ambassador to China, North Korea and Mongolia; Esther Heer-Zacek, former deputy head of BSI Asia; Eunice Zehnder-Lai, chief executive officer of IPM; Peter F. Weibel, Chair of the UZH Foundation; Annette Schömmel, managing director of Arthesia and Babaluba; and Patrick Balkanyi, partner at PwC.

Monday's launch event included a panel discussion that debated "new paradigms" affecting Asia, ‎a wide-ranging conversation with an eclectic mix of speakers: Asia Society's trustees Fore and Purnendu Chatterjee, Duke University's Prasenjit Duara; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Director Philip Tinari; and CCTV anchor Tian Wei, who served as moderator.

Among the more challenging of those "paradigms" were "a massive shortage of good jobs," a profound need for "a new startup culture" in Asia, an "innovation explosion" in China, and — also in China — a skyrocketing interest in contemporary art. No one would hazard a guess as to where the shifting paradigms of China's economy and the global impact of those changes might lead.

Perhaps the line of the evening belonged to Wei of CCTV, who said the old parental exhortation "you must finish your dinner," because others in Asia were starving, had been replaced by another line, born of the competition to get into good universities: "You must finish your homework."

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Asia Society Opens First Center in Europe