Virginia Kamsky

Success in the East and West, Kamsky’s Glory and Challenge

Far East Economic Pictorial

May 2009, Volume 154

Many people’s lives are all about pursuing fame and fortune. Kamsky is not like this; she has the golden touch when it comes to investing, and she is driven by forces more important than wealth.

She is American, but she speaks fluent Chinese. She was born with noble blood, but she is very easy-going. The level of her influence is quite high, yet she treats everybody well. She originally wanted to get her PhD in classical Chinese, but she became an expert in investing. She is fair-haired but has a Chinese godfather. She is a close friend to many high-level people in government and business circles, her story has been recorded in history. Her life is legendary, so what kind of woman is she really?

Chinese from Her Mother, Economics from Her Father

Destiny is really magic! [name of a Chinese movie] Kamsky’s relationship with China can be traced back to when she was 10 years old. Her mother Sonya decided to send her to a Sino-US association to learn Chinese, and so began the development of her many ties to China. Sonya was a very insightful mother, and was very concerned about world peace. She hoped the West could engage in better communication with China and was worried that too few people understood Chinese culture. In young Kamsky’s eyes, the Sino-US relationship described by her mother was the most important relationship in the world. At that time, the two countries had not settled into “harmony” and the American people were very concerned about China, on the other side of the globe. “The United States made a very, very big mistake. They do not understand China. Chinese people are very smart. The American people should understand more about China – 99.99% of the American people do not study Chinese. So you should study Chinese,” Kamsky’s mother often urged her daughter.

Kamsky’s alma mater is a well-known American university – Princeton University, where current US First Lady Michelle Obama also attended. During Kamsky’s school days, she specialized in classical Chinese and became familiar with literary classics such as “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” “Dream of the Red Chamber,” and “Water Margin.” She was deeply attracted to the rhythms of Li Bai and Du Fu’s poems, and loved the far-reaching ambition of “Though the Tortoise Lives Long.”

Kamsky’s extraordinary understanding of investment and philosophy was deeply influenced by her father Leonard Kamsky. Mr. Kamsky was a very successful economist and because he liked China so much, he became a professor at the Chinese University of Science and Technology in his later years. He consistently stressed the importance of fundamental economic knowledge. Therefore, with encouragement from Professor Marion, Kamsky studied classical economic courses throughout college.

Investment Skills and a Smile to Open China

In 1978, Kamsky came to Beijing as an American representative of Chase Manhattan Bank, in the first group of Americans to be called “Panda Huggers.” In her twenties, Kamsky was in her prime, like a dazzling pearl – generous, cheerful, charming. In the process of doing translation work, she got to know “China’s Number One Translator” Ji Chaozhu, and the two hit it off quite well. As a result, an American woman got to know a Chinese father figure, and Kamsky became like a step-daughter of China, thus writing another chapter in the story of her love for China.

Dare to think, dare to do, and succeed. In 1980, she established Kamsky Associates Inc. in Beijing, which at the time was one of the earliest American investment organizations in China. The English name of the company was “Kamsky Associates, Inc.” and taking the first letter of each word, it becomes “KAI” which makes the same sound as the Chinese word “kai.” The Chinese word “kai” signifies opening, absorbing, and expanding, which has truly been the trend of the times.

Over the years, Kamsky has traveled extensively throughout all of China’s provinces; in fact, she has traveled to more destinations in China than in the United States. She particularly remembers when Mississippi and Hainan developed friendly ties in 1987, and the first time she was greeted at the simple Haikou airport. At that time, Kamsky was close friends with the Mississippi governor, who wished to develop a stronger relationship with China. Kamsky conveyed this to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the time when Hainan had just separated from the Guangdong province to become its own independent province. At that time neither Gansu or Hainan had formed international exchanges, and so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended that Mississippi choose from these two provinces, and they chose Hainan. Therefore this will be noted in history: on August 30, Hainan province and Mississippi became sister states at a signing ceremony at Haikou.

Kamsky said that she is very proud of China, as China has reached such an impressive level of success. From 1978 to the present, China has had significant changes from month-to-month, while New York always stays the same. As one example, just look at the airports: there are more and more airports in China, and they are getting bigger and bigger. On the other hand, traditional things still remain, and Kamsky admires the glorious history of the Forbidden City, which shows the colors of the Ming Dynasty, but also has a modern feeling.

Choose What You Love, Love What You Choose

When you look at Kamsky’s smile, you can’t help but feel happy as well. She gives a smile from the heart to everybody. To her, this is very natural – when you encounter “nice” people, you can’t help but smile. If you like what you do, your work, your lifestyle, your family, then you can’t help but smile. Some people could complain about working 18 hours a day, but Kamsky doesn’t feel like she is doing work, but rather doing something that she enjoys. She is patient: “I do what I like, and I like what I do. When I come to China it feels like I am coming home. I like the people here, I like what I do, and I like to help the two countries communicate with each other.”

Everything about her life makes her smile. When encountering obstacles, other people just focus on the difficult parts, but Kamsky says there is always a solution when you help people communicate with each other – communication is a great way to solve problems. The two countries also need to communicate with each other, and dialogue should not just be between the top leaders, but the people should also communicate and understand each other.

Kamsky respects all people, as everybody is important. “I care about each and every person.” She treats the ayi who cleans her office with kindness, and her driver Liu Li calls her older sister, while Kamsky calls Liu Li her younger sister. She feels that, “When other people feel good, I can also feel good.”

In her eyes, being in China is just like being home. Chinese people are very welcoming and warm to foreigners, and people around her call her Big Sister, or 2nd or 3rd Sister, just as if they were family members. When she has gone to other countries, such as the time she spent in Tokyo, she doesn’t necessarily have the feeling of being home – there can be a real sense of distance between people.

Children are more important than business. Kamsky has a lovely son named Michael, and accords to the Chinese saying “Little Emperor,” he is very independent, and also very supportive of his mother’s work. In the United States there are many women who do not work, but Michael always sees his mother working. One of Michael’s interests is playing chess, and he has received many high rankings; he can even be considered as one of the world’s young masters. With his mother’s encouragement, Michael is also studying Chinese, he has many good Chinese friends, and is growing up to be a young diplomat.

I am so happy and excited! I write this poem so I will remember this moment. (last line of Cao Cao poem)

Sidebars

Kamsky (Virginia Ann Kamsky)

Chairman and CEO of KAI, Chairman of the China Institute

Kamsky is a well-known advisor for American investment in China. In 1963, when she was only 10 years old, Kamsky’s mother encouraged her to begin studying Chinese. In 1978 she came to China as a representative of Chase Manhattan Bank, responsible for foreign commercial banking and credit contracts in China. She became a leader for Americans doing business in China, and she witnessed the historical normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and China. In 1980 she founded KAI (Kamsky Associates, Inc.), which was one of the earliest American companies to enter the Chinese market. In that same year was the beginning of a 20-year friendship with her “Chinese father,” Ji Chaozhu.

In addition to serving as the Chairman of Kamsky Associates Inc., Kamsky also holds several other posts, including member of the US Foreign Relations Committee, board member of the National Committee on US-China Relations, and council member of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. She is also an advisor for Americares, working for the past 10 years on rescue and humanitarian aid work, which has had a tremendous impact. Working with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, the organization has provided USD $1 million worth of goods and materials to the victims of earthquakes and floods.

China Institute

The China Institute was jointly founded by the American philosopher John Dewey and “China’s Renaissance Man” Hu Shi in 1926. It is located in the east side of Manhattan in New York City, and it was the first non-profit organization focused on introducing China to the American public. They use education, cultural, business, and art programs to promote a deep understanding of China and they believe that intercultural understanding can help bring together the world community. China Institute’s education, cultural, and art programs have rich and varied topics, including Chinese language classes, art gallery tours and exhibitions, China tours and instructional workshops, painting and calligraphy classes, folk dancing and tai chi courses, as well as lectures relating to Chinese philosophy, history, literature, and society. China Institute’s Confucius Institute was officially opened by State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, and is dedicated to training Chinese teachers in the New York area.

KAI

Kamsky’s company KAI leads the world with its courageous spirit, and fulfills its promises to clients, having facilitated transactions in excess of USD $8 billion. In its 30 years of growth and expansion, Kamsky and her company maintain a flexible style, a keen sense of the market, and precise analysis and decisions. For foreign and domestic investments and related fields, they have successfully achieved many “firsts,” such as the first wholly foreign-owned enterprise, first establishment of a foreign-invested multi-purpose real estate development project, first attainment of an insurance license, first compensation trade mining venture, etc. The company’s philosophy is to open and develop companies, using adept specialized skill, rich business experience, and Chinese policy research to help domestic and foreign companies carry our cross-border investment, domestic and foreign M&A, and other areas providing a series of high-quality, detailed, reliable, comprehensive strategic consulting services. In recent years, along with the growing trend of Chinese investors “going out,” KAI has spared no effort in advancing Chinese enterprises’ proactive communication and exchange with western companies, providing pragmatic investment services for the Chinese side.