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Alibaba founder is ‘Asia Game Changer of Year’

Zhang Yuwei in New York
Updated: Sep 24,2014 11:57 AM     China Daily

Jack Ma, whose Alibaba Group Holding Ltd set a record last week with its initial public offering, was named “Asia Game Changer of the Year” by the Asia Society for his company and philanthropic vision.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd founder Jack Ma Yun arrives at the New York Stock Exchange for his company's initial public offering (IPO) under the ticker "BABA" in New York September 19, 2014. REUTERS

Ma and Zhang Minxuan, a professor at Shanghai Normal University, were the two Chinese honorees among 13 named last Tuesday as recipients of the organization’s first Asia Game Changer Awards, which recognize those who have made a positive difference in Asia and the world.

“One individual stood out in our selection process,” said Josette Sheeran, president of the New York-based society. “The truly game-changing nature of Jack Ma’s company Alibaba, and his philanthropic vision for China, have made him our Asia Game Changer of the Year.”

The Chinese e-commerce giant co-founded by Ma became the largest IPO ever when it debuted on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. The 49-year-old has a net worth of $21.9 billion and is China’s richest man, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He was named the richest man in China this year by the Shanghai-based research group Hurun Report.

Ma has also been getting attention for his philanthropic work. He set up a $3 billion charity trust in April and met with US philanthropist Bill Gates in June to discuss more such activities. The scale of the trust, about 2 percent of his company’s current equity, makes it one of the largest in Asia.

Tom Nagorski, executive vice-president of the Asia Society, said the 13 honorees were selected from more than 1,000 nominations. “Many of these nominees were brought to us by our global network, and the feedback resulted in these selections,” he said.

The recipients hail from a wide range of fields, including education, innovation and the arts. They include Madhav Chavan, CEO of Indian educational nonprofit Pratham Charitable Trust; Pakistani journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy; Japanese architect Shigeru Ban; and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage activist who stood up for women’s rights after the Taliban had banned girls from attending school.

Zhang of Shanghai Normal University has worked for the past three decades to bring quality education to 23 million Shanghai children of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. He also has worked with the Asia Society to allow Shanghai to participate in the Global Cities Education Network.

“We want these awards to reflect the broader range of human activity-from language, culture and education to policy and business-so we expect future nominees from China will be from all these disciplines,” said Sheeran.

By creating the awards, Asia Society wants to bring well-deserved public attention to the transformation many Asian leaders have achieved in many different fields, she said.

“The awards are designed to fill a glaring gap-a lack of recognition of people who are truly transforming ideas into action and improving lives in Asia,” she said. “Our inaugural honorees represent an extraordinary range of geography and achievement. What they share in common are vision, passion and proven impact, wherever and however they happen to be changing the world.”

Asia Society was founded by American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III to promote better understanding and partnerships between the US and Asia.

Ma and most of the other honorees are scheduled to attend the Asia Game Changer Awards dinner and celebration at the United Nations in New York on Oct 16. Ma, in person, and fellow honoree Malala Yousafzai, through video link, will address the event.

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