Asia 21 Young Leaders Gather in San Francisco Bay Area for 2019 Summit

Nearly 100 members of Asia Society’s prestigious Asia 21 Young Leaders network gathered in the San Francisco Bay Area over the weekend for a three-day summit comprised of panel discussions, cultural exchanges, and ideas sharing.

The class of 2019 — comprising 40 men and women from 30 countries and territories across the Asia Pacific — includes human rights advocates, journalists, social entrepreneurs, filmmakers, artists, and business leaders from a stunningly diverse range of backgrounds. During insightful panel talks and numerous breakout sessions, the young leaders devoted significant attention to the increasingly bifurcated world of big tech. In recent years, China has emerged as a formidable competitor to the United States' traditional dominance of the field, a trend now in particular focus as the world shifts to the 5G network standard. Alistair Thornton '19, a co-founder of Young China Watchers, noted during a panel talk that "Southeast Asia has become a key battleground for Chinese and American tech companies." It can be hard to spot the difference. Referring to the popular video app, Thornton pointed out that "99 percent of people in the West don't realize TikTok is a Chinese company."

Not every leader, however, was as convinced that technology was our biggest concern. In a separate discussion on artificial intelligence, Armen Orujyan '08 quipped that he was "more worried about dumb humans than smart machines."

But the group assembled in the Bay Area also dealt with more fundamental matters, such as how to be a leader in an increasingly fractured world. Special guest participant James Higa, a member of the original Macintosh team at Apple, spoke about his distinguished career and offered valuable advice for life. Other discussions touched upon women's empowerment and social entrepreneurship.

In addition to Higa, UC Berkeley Dean of Engineering Tsu-Jae King Liu, Asia Society Northern California Honorary Chairman Jack Wadsworth, and Asia Society trustees Fritz Demopoulos, Susan S. HakkarainenOmar Ishrak, and Ken Wilcox attended the summit.

Joining the new class in California were 55 alumni from Asia 21 classes dating back to 2006. The Asia 21 Young Leaders network, which recognizes remarkable men and women aged 40 or younger at the time of induction, now consists of close to 1,000 members across 40 countries.

Watch videos from the summit below. For additional photos, please see the Asia 21 Young Leaders Facebook page.


Entrepreneur and Asia 21 Young Leader Martin Tan delivers a talk on leadership at the 2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit. (45 min., 33 sec.)


Asia 21 Young Leaders Armen Orujyan, Nikhil Pahwa, and Megha Rajagopalan discuss the issues surrounding regulating big tech and artificial intelligence global governance at the 2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders summit. Heather Evans of Asia Society Northern California served as moderator. (58 min., 57 sec.)


Jack Wadsworth, honorary chairman of Asia Society Northern California, moderates a discussion of art's ability to catalyze social change with Asia 21 Young Leaders Lesley Ma, Zen Cho, and Nikora Ngaropo. The conversation was held at the 2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders summit. (57 min., 58 sec.)


Asia 21 Young Leaders Alex Moazed, Bing Chen, Alistair Thornton, and Ernestine Fu discuss the emergence of parallel "internets" dominated by China and the United States and the enduring strength of China's "Great Firewall." This lunchtime roundtable discussion was part of the 2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders summit. (1 hr., 15 min.)


Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, participates in a fireside chat with entrepreneur and Asia 21 Young Leader Chuck Ng during the 2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit. (1 hr., 4 min.)


Venture capitalist Norman Liang discusses sustainable leadership with Asia 21 Young Leaders Bonnie Chiu, Paul Chong, and Stephanie Sy at the 2019 Asia 21 Young Leaders summit. (43 min. 4 sec.)