Yale Center Beijing’s Carol Li Rafferty Named WEF Young Global Leader

Carol Li Rafferty YC ’00, the managing director of Yale Center Beijing, has been named to the World Economic Forum’s newest class of Young Global Leaders, the WEF announced on March 16.

Rafferty will join a community of young leaders under 40 from around the world and from organizations in all sectors. For five years, in parallel with her professional career, she will participate in WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and other activities through the Forum of Young Global Leaders, a network intended to help participants develop their potential as global leaders and enable them to collaborate on solutions to major problems facing the world.

“I am honored and humbled to become part of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader community,” Rafferty said. “I look forward to leveraging this platform to further Yale University’s mission of improving the world and educating leaders who serve all sectors of society.”

The Forum of Young Global Leaders brings together a unique group of talented people who are making impacts in a variety of areas, she said.

“There are people solving problems about water, the environment. People who are at the forefront of technology, investing, and philanthropy. We’re from all continents, male and female, with experience in politics, business, social enterprises, nonprofits, government,” she said. “It’s really a microcosm of what the future of the world looks like.”

Together, these young leaders can take on the biggest issues facing the world, she added. “A lot of problems and issues we’re facing, ranging from the environment to preservation of culture—which Yale President Peter Salovey discussed this year at Davos—require solutions that are outside of the box, that are multidisciplinary, and that require cooperation among people from different sectors. None of these problems can really be circumscribed or confined to a geographical area or a certain sector or discipline.”

Rafferty has spent her career making connections between China, the U.S., and the world. Born in Hong Kong to a family prominent in banking and law, she moved to the U.S. at age 12 and attended Yale College, graduating cum laude with degrees in economics and international studies. She received her law degree from Stanford Law School, where she was an editor of the Stanford Law Review. After working at a New York law firm, she returned to China to serve as senior vice president at the China Investment Corporation (CIC), China’s sovereign wealth fund. She is also co-founder of Lean In China, a network of 80,000 professional women in China, and a fellow of the Aspen Institute.

Rafferty has led Yale Center Beijing since its founding in 2014. The center, managed by the Yale School of Management on behalf of Yale University, serves as a hub for the university’s activities in China. In its first 18 months, it has presented conferences and symposiums in collaboration with Yale institutions; hosted events for alumni and prospective students; and served as a vibrant forum for discussions of business, politics, music, art, and other topics.

Neil Shen GRD ’92, founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China and the chair of Yale Center Beijing’s advisory board, said that Rafferty’s leadership of the center showed that she would be a dynamic member of the Forum of Young Global Leaders.

“Carol has done a fantastic job as director for Yale Center Beijing—she not only demonstrated her leadership but also her entrepreneurship in advancing all causes at the center,” said Shen, who is himself a frequent speaker at the World Economic Forum. “She has created many initiatives to help connect leaders from China with Yale, with great results.”

David Bach, Yale SOM’s senior associate dean for executive MBA and global programs, said that Rafferty’s selection is an honor for her as well as for Yale.

“At Yale Center Beijing, Carol has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to connect people across continents and disciplines,” he said. “This selection is a recognition of her wonderful work and future potential. It also underscores the pivotal role a place like Yale Center Beijing can play in convening leaders and facilitating exchange on key global issues. Carol will benefit tremendously from her WEF affiliation and it simultaneously represents an opportunity for Yale to make connections and collaborate with the next generation of world leaders.”