Media & Internet

Eric X. Li

Founder, Chengwei Capital | China

For defending Communist Party ideology with slick Western rhetoric.

Eric X. Li’s career and life story embody the curious mix of communism, capitalism, ideology, and steely pragmatism that characterizes modern China. A Shanghai-based venture capitalist, Li has both wooed and outraged Western audiences with his provocative defense of China’s authoritarian one-party political system and unabashed criticism of American-style democracy. A self-styled “Berkeley hippie” — he graduated from California’s flagship public university in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in economics — Li has used his mastery of Western rhetorical discourse to repackage stilted Communist Party argot into nuanced, politically savvy arguments with demonstrated sticking power. His talks and op-eds, such as his controversial February 2012 New York Times piece, “Why China’s Political Model Is Superior,” have reached a wide audience in China and the United States, inspiring strong rebuttals, including during a live debate with Chinese political scientist Minxin Pei at the Aspen Ideas Festival in July 2012.

The well-connected Li doesn’t just play politics. Li is also the founder of Chengwei Capital, a venture capital firm in Shanghai. Who’s to say Communist adherents can’t get rich?