Connecting Asia and the World: The 10th Annual Asia Game Changer Awards
NEW YORK — The Asia Society celebrated the 10th anniversary of its marquee Asia Game Changer Awards on October 26 in the soaring great hall of Cipriani’s lower Manhattan location. The 2023 honorees have strengthened bonds between Asia and the world in the fields of education, visual arts, film, business, philanthropy, and music.
Asia Society marked a decade of recognizing Game Changers with past and current honorees all in attendance.
The evening, held in partnership with Founding Partner Citi, was emceed by Ida Liu, Global Head of Citi Private Bank. Liu opened the ceremony by acknowledging how many new faces were in the crowd, a testament to the organization’s growing impact. “Asia Society has a very rich legacy of nearly seven decades and an important mission to promote mutual understanding and strengthen bonds among people, leaders, and institutions. An incredibly important mission, especially in the times that we are living today,” said Liu.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh was the first honoree of the evening. Rasikh has dedicated herself to ensuring that Afghan girls can receive the education they deserve, founding Afghanistan’s first and only all-girls boarding school in 2016. “First, there are two things that cannot be contained by borders. One is the threat of terrorism -- and we know that no borders can contain that. But there is also another thing that cannot be contained by borders, and that is the benefit of investment in girls’ education,” said Rasikh upon accepting her award.
The next Game Changer to be recognized was Yayoi Kusama, who was unable to join the event in person. Kusama has been a game changing force in the contemporary art world, known for her use of polka dots and her artistic portrayals of hallucinations.
James Kondo, Co-Chair of Asia Society Japan Center, delivered a message on her behalf: “I am delighted to hear that people will get to hear about my art and that you will be awarding me this fabulous prize. It encourages me as someone who has been fighting to create my art every day. It is my hope that life all over the world will hear my heartful message. Although the wars and conflicts continue to occur in the world, humanity wants to live with love. I continue to paint my wishes for peace.”
Natori Brand founder Josie Natori, as introduced by Asia Society Global Trustee and Vice Chair Lulu Wang, is “celebrated as a self-made immigrant whose ability to merge beauty, art, and business has changed the game in the world of fashion and lifestyle.”
Natori accepted her award: “Thank you. this is an overwhelming honor. You know, I came to this country, amazing country at the age of 17 to get an education. I never imagined or dreamt that I would one day at age 76. They bestowed this incredible honor of being called an Asia Game Changer.”
In 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra was the first American orchestra to perform in the People’s Republic of China, kicking off a five-decade commitment to people-to-people exchange there. On hand to introduce the orchestra were Ambassador Huang Ping, the Consul General for China in New York, and President Emeritus of Asia Society Nicholas Platt, who accompanied President Nixon on his historic trip to China and served in the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing at the time of the orchestra’s visit.
Platt said: “The Philadelphia Orchestra was the first to establish a systemic series of exchanges in 2013, which emphasized a two-way street that would enable Chinese orchestras to travel to the United States and provide the opportunity to bring their music here. Although our government-to-government relationships are tense, this exchange continues to flourish thanks to the love of music on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.”
Matias Tarnopolsky, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, accepted the award on behalf of the organization, whose performers he noted would soon be on their way to China to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that first visit to China.
“Music is often the only language that persists in hard times and often the only language that tells the truth,” Tarnopolsky shared. “To this day, we’re told frequently when we are there and when we meet with both American and Chinese diplomats: ‘Please keep doing what you’re doing.’”
Throughout the evening, guests enjoyed musical interludes from The Children's Orchestra Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching the language of music founded in 1962 by Dr. Hiao-Tsiun Ma, father of cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Ma’s sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, is the Executive Director of The Childrens Orchestra Society and was in attendance at the gala.
Award-winning actress and director Yao Chen, has used her platform of over 81 million fans on Weibo to advocate for refugees across the globe. In her acceptance speech, Chen emphasized the ways she endeavored to impact lives through her film and philanthropy work:
“Over the past two decades, I have endeavored to show the resilience of women in facing challenges. In my performances, I also hope to give strength to women across the world,” Chen told the crowd.
Dr. Stephen Riady, one of Asia’s most respected businessmen, was honored at Game Changers for his humility and commitment to helping others. In 2010, Dr. Riady established the Stephan Riady Foundation, working to transform lives in Papua Province Indonesia with education, empowerment, and engagement.
Dr. Riady elaborated upon this work in his acceptance speech: “My father always often reminded me to give back to the place you leave. The people of Papua, Indonesia deserve our attention and support to live a better life and not be left behind, to be part of growth in Southeast Asia. With this in mind, our family has spent more than 20 years in Papua and other remote areas of Indonesia to uplift them in education and healthcare. Our work in Papua is not a matter of money, but of commitment, passion and perseverance.”
The final Game Changer honorees of the evening were husband and wife duo of Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo!, and Akiko Yamazaki. They have dedicated much of their lives to bridging Asia and the U.S, and their work has had widespread influence on racial inclusivity, education, fine art, and sustainability.
Introducing Yang and Yamazaki were Joe Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, and his wife Clara Wu Tsai, both former Game Changer honorees. “Jerry and Akiko both have a hands-on collaborative leadership style, and they succeed because at their core they are such kind, genuine, and humble people,” said Wu Tsai.
Yamazaki spoke first when accepting the award, detailing her work with the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which was her “labor of love” for six years as chairman. Yang continued, ”Giving back was something that Akiko and I talked about when we were getting married, and it’s been an extremely rewarding journey.”
Yang ended the evening on a note that encapsulated the incredible work done by this year’s honorees: “I just want to leave you by saying that I think we can all do more by giving, but we can also give more by doing.”