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The Silfen Forum was part of a weeklong series of events hosted by Penn in China. Led by Amy Gutmann, the panel also included former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and former Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing. | Courtesy oLaura Cavender/University Communications

President Amy Gutmann’s first trip to the Penn Wharton China Center included exhibiting academically diverse showcases, conversing with intellectual leaders and presenting new awards.

The weeklong series of events, staged six months after the Center’s opening in March, was capped by the Silfen Forum, a discussion that was moderated by Penn President Amy Gutmann featuring 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 forum, which was attended by around 600 guests, focused on US-China relations, especially in the areas of business, technology and higher education.

“You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was listening to every word of the discussions,” Gutmann said, adding that a highlight of the forum was a lively debate between Powell and Li over U.S. and Chinese foreign policies.

“General Powell and Minister Li — who have been diplomatic friends for decades — had some wonderful high level sparring of the exactly right kind,” Gutmann said.

Penn’s efforts in developing the PWCC reflect the importance that the University places on engaging with China. Two thousand undergraduates have ties to China, Gutmann said, while thousands of alumni are scattered throughout Asia.

“I think for students, studying China and understanding China is key to a lot of different opportunities in the world,” Executive Director for Penn Global Amy Gadsden said. “China is playing a role in virtually every sector from business and economics to politics and geostrategic relationships, but also arts and culture.”

The week at the PWCC was filled with various events and programs put on by Penn’s different schools, including the opening of the Penn Design Exhibition called “An Investigation on Architecture Practice in China” and a robotics symposium put on by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Ten of Penn’s 12 deans visited the Center, as well as Dean of Admissions Eric Furda and Director of Athletics and Recreation Grace Calhoun.

During her visit, Gutmann also announced the first recipients of the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund awards, which provide research grants to Penn faculty to encourage engagement in China, and will award up to $10 million over the next five years.

Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel explained that although some Penn professors have focused their research on China since well before the PWCC opened, the center “provides a more solid institutional structure and support that not only helps existing relationships but also catalyzes additional interactions with the Chinese.”

In the months and years ahead, the PWCC hopes to expand, pushing global engagement even further.

“More — that’s what’s ahead,” Emanuel said. “More programs, more conferences, more classes with students. Lots more engagement and activity — that would be the ideal.”

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