Virginia Kamsky and Ziaoshan Ren

2011 China Institute Gala Honors Virginia Kamsky and Zhang Xin

By Amanda Gordon,

Zhang Xin, chief executive officer of Soho China Ltd., sat next to her 10-year-old son, Luc, who was wearing black tie for the first time.

The occasion was the China Institute’s annual gala, at Cipriani 42nd Street, where attendees included Harbinger Group Inc.’s Philip Falcone and Kingdon Capital Management’s Mark Kingdon.

“This is the English speaker’s table,” Xin said. “My husband is at the Chinese table.” She is married to Pan Shiyi, chairman of Soho China, a real estate development company the couple founded in 1995.

Among their guests was Zaha Hadid in a silky, billowy lavender blouse. She’s the architect for several of Soho China’s projects, including the Galaxy Soho in central Beijing, a curvy sculptural office and retail complex of connected buildings, each built around a courtyard.

Virginia A. Kamsky, chairman and chief executive officer of the advisory firm Kamsky Associates Inc., and chairman of the China Institute, spoke Chinese at her table with her 13-year-old son, Michael, Consul General Peng Keyu and Education Consul Wang Ying.

Kamsky began studying the language at the age of 10 at the China Institute. It was 1963. “My mom was concerned about world peace,” said Kamsky. “She thought China would become a formidable force.”

These days Kamsky advises the Navy on Asia Pacific strategy. “I walk across the Pentagon in my high heels,” she said, lifting her Monique Lhuillier gown to reveal a pair of sparkling silver shoes. Anna Hu custom-designed her amethyst ring.

Kamsky and Xin both received the China Institute’s Blue Cloud Award at the event, which raised $1.3 million. In their honor, the Princeton Tigertones, dressed in white jackets, sang Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” Two of the Tigertones, brothers Matt and Will McCalpin, are the sons of China Institute’s president, Sara Judge McCalpin.

Sihan Shu, a managing director at Paulson & Co., was impressed with the institute’s offerings, which include cultural and business programs. “Maybe I’ll send my son there to learn Chinese,” Shu said of his 5-month-old.