Penn Hosts 2015 Silfen Forum in China Celebrating Global Engagement

On Thursday, Sept. 10, Penn President Amy Gutmann hosted the David and Lyn Silfen University Forum in Beijing, convening a panel of renowned figures in conversation on the roles of China and the United States in the world.

Gutmann led panelists General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), United States secretary of state from 2001 to 2005; Ambassador Li Zhaoxing, foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China from 2003 to 2007; Zhang Xin, CEO and co-founder of SOHO China Ltd.; and Howard Marks, co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management LLC and a Wharton alum, in a dynamic, wide-ranging discussion on globalization, innovation, and engagement between the U.S. and China. The Forum is named for David Silfen, a 1966 Penn alumnus, and his wife, Lyn, and brings together world-renowned figures in conversation with Gutmann to reflect on issues of the day.

What you have heard all of our esteemed panelists argue for most compellingly is the importance of a long-term perspective. That is what higher education stands for, that is why we are here this evening, and that is why we owe a great deal of thanks to our great four participants, panelists, national, and international leaders.

Penn President Amy Gutmann

Welcoming the audience of more than 500 alumni, students, faculty, trustees, and guests, Gutmann said, “We at the University of Pennsylvania are honored to host this historic forum here in Beijing, where we will discuss the relationship between China and the United States. It is said that where the paths of great nations meet, there the course of the world will change.”

Watch recorded webcast of the 2015 Silfen Forum

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Drawing on an account of China’s porcelain manufacturing and export in the early 17th century as an account of this impact, Gutmann said, “Geopolitics and global trade, technology and espionage, wealth, culture, and simply human desire: These remain at the core of international relations to this day, and especially between the United States and China.”

 Penn Hosts 2015 Silfen Forum in China Celebrating Global Engagement

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was part of the Silfen Forum’s panel discussion about the roles of the U.S. and China in the world.

Powell and Li, longtime friends and colleagues throughout their careers in diplomacy, engaged in a high-spirited discussion of Sino-U.S. relations. The panelists all explored the role of entrepreneurship in driving global international finance, the role of higher education in fostering technological innovation, and how education can be a platform for understanding between the two countries.

The evening concluded with a gala reception and a toast from Max Sieben Baucus, United States ambassador to China.

The Silfen Forum capped a weeklong series of events hosted by the University in Beijing to mark the first 100 days of the Penn Wharton China Center, which opened in March 2015.

Additional activities included an open house and dedication of a Ben on the Bench sculpture at the Penn Wharton China Center; the opening of the Penn Design exhibition, “An Investigation on Architecture Practice in China”; as well as several forums and exchanges with Penn faculty experts and Chinese university partners. Participating in these events were deans of 10 of Penn’s 12 schools, as well as faculty, alumni, students, trustees, and guests.

 Penn Hosts 2015 Silfen Forum in China Celebrating Global Engagement

Zhang Xin, CEO and co-founder of SOHO China Ltd., engaged in a lively discussion about globalization, innovation, and entrepreneurship.


On Thursday, Sept. 10, the University also announced the inaugural awardees of the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF) awards. The CREF awards fund Penn faculty working on projects with Chinese partners and represent another milestone in Penn’s engagement in China, which has spanned almost two centuries.

Penn’s connections in China include nearly 4,000 Penn alumni who currently live in China and Hong Kong and more than 10,000 alumni who live throughout Asia. Chinese students make up a large percentage of Penn’s international undergraduate and graduate student population on campus, and Penn sends many students to China annually for study abroad programs and internship exchanges. At present, Penn has 180 faculty members with more than 275 projects in or relating to China.

 Penn Hosts 2015 Silfen Forum in China Celebrating Global Engagement

Penn President Amy Gutmann (seated) with (from left to right) Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the Wharton School; Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky Family Dean at the School of Engineering and Applied Science; Marilyn Jordan Taylor, dean of PennDesign; Denis F. Kinane, the Morton Amsterdam Dean of the School of Dental Medicine; Antonia Villarruel, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the School of Nursing; J. Larry Jameson, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine; Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives; Pam Grossman, dean of the Graduate School of Education; Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences; and John L. Jackson, Jr., dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice.

  • Text by Amanda Mott