On November 6, 2018, Avenues New York hosted a special event on campus: the presentation of the Young China Watchers’ (YCW) Young China Watcher of the Year Award.
Young China Watchers is a global network of young professionals working in China-related fields, with 10 chapters around the world, including New York, Washington D.C., Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. The organization is dedicated to furthering discussion and enhancing understanding of China today through regular roundtables and discussions with experts. The Young China Watcher of the Year Award recognizes a young professional who has made an extraordinary contribution to the global understanding of China. Given the synergy between YCW’s mission and Avenues’ own deep connection with China—growing deeper this year with the projected opening of our Shenzhen campus—Avenues was proud to partner with YCW as host of the inaugural award ceremony.
Over tasty jianbing (a crispy, savory egg pancake often eaten for breakfast in China) and cups of frothy bubble tea, guests were treated to two thought-provoking presentations. The first was a keynote speech by Evan Osnos, staff writer at The New Yorker and award-winning author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China (2014). Osnos lived in China from 2005 to 2013, serving as The New Yorker’s China correspondent from 2008. In Age of Ambition, which won the 2014 National Book Award for nonfiction, he profiles several individuals who are participating—or being swept up in—China’s rise, including a teacher, a street sweeper and artist Ai Weiwei.
In his keynote, Osnos spoke about the challenges, opportunities and obligations of China-watching today. He began by quoting John King Fairbank, a Harvard historian widely considered the father of modern Chinese studies, who first visited China in 1932: “China still is a journalist's dream and a statistician's nightmare, with more human drama and fewer verifiable facts per square mile than anywhere else in the world.” He concluded by noting that while China watchers no longer suffer from a dearth of verifiable facts, they face other challenges—not least the breakneck pace of change that defines contemporary Chinese society. The highest duty of the China watcher, Osnos posited, is to go beyond the compilation of facts and statistics—one thinks of the impressive, oft-quoted numbers for GDP growth and population size—to impose meaning on them, and ask: what is it like to live in China and to be Chinese today?
Check out a clip from Osnos’s speech in the video below:
The winner of this year’s award, Oma Lee, was recognized for her contribution to China’s nonprofit world—in particular, for helping bridge the gap between foreign and domestic NGOs and nonprofits. As a senior analyst at the Center for Charity Law at the China Philanthropy Research Institute, Lee helped formulate and implement regulations for local charities and foreign NGOs. Prior to that, in 2015, she co-founded the Beijing Women’s Network, a local NGO providing a supportive platform for thousands of women across Beijing. In her presentation, Lee shared some of her experiences and insights into China’s nonprofit world, including the less well-known spaces for collaboration between foreign and domestic NGOs and China’s growing philanthropy sector.
Avenues congratulates Oma Lee on being named the 2018 Young China Watcher of the Year, and wishes the Young China Watchers every success in 2019.