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Penn Global Executive Director Amy Gadsden at the Penn Wharton China Center, where Penn President Amy Gutmann will be visiting later this week. | Courtesy of John Zhang

Six months after the Penn Wharton China Center kicked off in Beijing, the opening celebrations will conclude with a gala and discussion forum featuring distinguished guests from around the world.

Thursday’s Silfen Forum, the first to ever be held outside of Penn’s campus, will be moderated by Penn President Amy Gutmann and will feature General Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state; Li Zhaoxing, former foreign minister of China; Zhang Xin, CEO and co-founder of SOHO China; and Howard Marks, co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management.

The conversation will focus on Sino-U.S. relations in the 21st century in the areas of business, technology, finance and higher education, as well as the importance of cross-cultural collaboration in solving the greatest challenges of modern times.

“This Silfen Forum will get a huge amount of attention, I’m sure, in any case. But all the more so because of what’s happening in the world,” Gutmann said, referring to the recent economic downturn in China that’s affected global markets.

The forum will be followed by a gala on Thursday evening, with around 600 guests.

Gutmann noted that relations with China have always been important to the University.

“Engagement in China has been a long-term priority for Penn, and connections between Penn and China date back to 1823,” Gutmann said. “And today, thousands of Chinese students call Penn home.”

Second-year MBA and Beijing-native Michael Chen visited the Penn Wharton China Center this summer and was excited to see Penn living up to its goal of promoting collaboration between the two nations.

“I can see the dedication from Penn,” Chen said. “Last year we had the Global Forum in Beijing, and this is one of the most important events for Wharton. Now we have the physical facility. [Penn] not only puts a lot of money in there, but they put a lot of the commitment.”

Other events during the week include a class for MBA students focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation, symposiums hosted by the Perelman School of Medicine and events hosted by the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Design. Nine of Penn’s 12 deans will visit PWCC throughout the week.

The events will also include a dedication of PWCC, featuring a familiar Penn symbol replicated halfway across the globe.

“We are going to have a Benjamin Franklin ‘Ben on the Bench’ statue that is going to be unveiled at the center,” PWCC Director John Zhang said. “The reason why we want to have this piece is this is very sentimental. Many people who study at Penn have their picture taken on the bench. So it’s to remind them about their experience at Penn.”

Zhang also emphasized the importance of Gutmann’s visit to the success of PWCC.

“Our leadership has really done a lot of good thinking about how we can make Penn the premier university in the world and the premier training ground for future leaders,” he said. “So that’s why I think the trip for President Gutmann to go to China is very significant. It’s not only a morale booster — everybody will feel good about about the president coming in. We are really looking forward to this event.”

Current Penn students who have visited the center so far have felt at home. Wharton senior Aaron Goldstein’s visit to Beijing during spring break coincided with the opening of the PWCC.

“I think the space is beautiful, and it’s definitely going to help bring the Penn and Wharton names to China and help them maybe secure more resources and students,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein added that the PWCC has perks unique to China.

“There’s a Starbucks on the ground floor in the building [of the PWCC]. In China they have something called an ice black raspberry juice tea, and it’s a great drink, so definitely tell [President Gutmann] to pick one of those up on her way out.”

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