Getting U.S.-Asia Relations Right

Advice from the Honorees of ASNC's 10th Annual Dinner

Managing today’s global challenges—from climate change and terrorism to transforming the global economy—requires the U.S. and China to accept each other’s faults and focus on deepening their friendship and collaboration, argued Sidney Rittenberg during a speech at Asia Society Northern California’s 10th Annual Dinner.

Rittenberg, who joined the Chinese Community Party in 1945 and became Mao Zedong’s translator only to be put into solitary confinement for 16 years after being accused of being a U.S. spy, was honored for his leadership in education at this year’s annual gala, which was held in San Francisco on May 17.

Acknowledging that the U.S. and China disagree on many issues, Rittenberg drew parallels between the many cultural misunderstandings between them. “We find it hard to accept their one-child policy; they find our one-parent families totally incomprehensible,” Rittenberg said. While Americans accuse China of terrible human rights abuses, they often overlook what is happening in their own backyard, in South Central Los Angeles or East Harlem. Both countries should “just get over it” and work around these differences, said Rittenberg.

In addition to Rittenberg, two other figures who have transformed U.S.-Asia relations were recognized at this year’s Dinner under the theme “Creating Cultures of Innovation.” C. Richard Kramlich, who co-founded and is now Chairman of the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, was honored for his pioneering efforts to bring venture capital to China. According to Kramlich, this is the “century of Asia,” and it is “terribly important that we understand much more about the Asian cultures.”

The other honoree for the evening, pioneering environmental scientist Amory Lovins, stressed the importance of energy efficiency as an unbeatable approach to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change. Lovins, who co-founded the Rocky Mountain Institute and is author of the groundbreaking book, Reinventing Fire, also looked to Asia as an important region for problem-solving. “Asia has had a profound impact on my personal outlook,” said Lovins, and is quickly becoming the “world leader in solving global climate and energy problems.”

This year’s Annual Dinner Masters of Ceremony were Sydnie Kohara, former CNBC and CBS5 Anchor, and Jennifer Povlitz of Merrill Lynch. Other VIPs who spoke at the event included Jack Wadsworth of Morgan Stanley, Gary Rieschel of Qiming Venture Partners, and Lynn Price of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Watch Kramlich's acceptance speech:

Watch Rittenberg's acceptance speech:

Watch Lovins' acceptance speech:

Read an interview with Sidney Rittenberg here. 
Read an interview with Amory Lovins here. 
Read an interview with C. Richard Kramlich here. 

The Annual Dinner is ASNC’s largest fundraising event of the year. Support for the Annual Dinner goes towards funding ASNC’s diverse programming on programs focused on policy, business, arts & culture, and society.