“When I was growing up, I was told a story that explained all I ever needed to know about humanity. It went like this,” says Eric X. Li in today’s provocative talk, given at TEDGlobal 2013. “All human societies develop in a linear progression, beginning with primitive society, than slave society, than feudalism, capitalism, socialism […]Continue reading
Why you should listen
A well-connected venture capitalist in Shanghai, where he was born, Eric X. Li studied in America (and even worked for Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign) before returning home, where he started doubting the idea that China's progress could only follow the path of the West's free-market principles.
In a much-discussed op-ed he wrote for the New York Times in February 2012 and in other writings, he has put forth the idea that China needed a different development framework, around a different idea of modernity. The Chinese system, he says, is meritocratic, highly adaptable despite the one-party rule, long term-oriented, pragmatic and non-individualistic. As he writes: "The Chinese political system ... comes close to the best formula for governing a large country: meritocracy at the top, democracy at the bottom, with room for experimentation in between.
While some criticize him as a cheerleader of the Chinese government and a champion of Chinese exceptionalism, Li is comfortable in the role of provocateur. He is the founder of Chengwei Capital in Shanghai, serves on the board of directors of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute.
What others say
“Li believes that China is inventing an alternative set of organizing principles for human affairs that are fundamentally different—not in opposition—but fundamentally different from what the world has been looking to the West for in the last three-four hundred years.” — Anant Giridharadas, "Chinese Dreams"
Eric X. Li’s TED talk
By Yasheng Huang Earlier this year, economist Yasheng Huang (watch his 2011 TED Talk) sparred with Eric X. Li in the pages of Foreign Affairs on a similar topic to today’s TED Talk. The TED Blog asked Huang to expand on his argument in his ongoing conversation with Li. Imagine confusing the following two statements from […]Continue reading
Born in Shanghai in 1968, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, Eric X. Li grew up hearing a story: All human societies develop in linear progression, beginning with primitive society, moving through capitalism to socialism and, finally, Communism. Sooner or later, all of humanity, regardless of creed or culture, will reach that final stage […]Continue reading