Good morning. My name is Eric Li, and I was born here. But no, I wasn’t born there. This was where I was born: Shanghai, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. My grandmother tells me that she heard the sound of gunfire along with my first cries.
When I was growing up, I was told a story that explained all I ever needed to know that humanity. It went like this.
All human societies develop in linear progression, beginning with primitive society, then slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and finally, (guess where we end up?) Communism!
Sooner or later, all of humanity, regardless of culture, language, nationality, will arrive at this final stage of political and social development. The entire world’s peoples will be unified in this paradise on earth and live happily ever after.
But before we get there, we’re engaged in a struggle between good and evil, the good of socialism against the evil of capitalism, and the good shall triumph.
That, of course, was the meta-narrative distilled from the theories of Karl Marx. And the Chinese bought it. We were taught that grand story day in and day out. It became part of us, and we believed in it. The story was a bestseller. About on third of the entire world’s population lived under that meta narrative. Then, the world changed overnight. As for me, disillusioned by the failed religion of my youth, I went to America and became a Berkeley hippie.
Now, as I was coming of ageu>, something else happened. As if one big story wasn’t enough, I was told another one. This one was just as grand. It also claims that all human societies develop in a linear progression towards a singular end. This one went as follows.
All societies, regardless of culture, be it Christian, Muslim, Confucian, must progress from traditional societies in which groups are the basic units to modern societies in which atomized individuals are the sovereign units, and all these individuals are, by definition, rational, and they all want one thing: the vote.
Because they all rational, once given the vote, they produce good government and live happily ever after. Paradise on earth, again.
Sooner or later, electoral democracy will be the only political system for all countries and all peoples, with a free market to make them all rich. But before we get there, we’re engaged in a struggle between good and evil.
The good belongs to those who are democracies and are charged with a mission of spreading it around the globe, sometimes by force, against the evil of those who do not hold elections.(。。。) Now. This story also became a bestseller. According to the Freedom House, the number of democracies went from 45 in 1970 to 115 in 2010. In the last 20years, Western elites tirelessly trotted around the globe selling this prospectus.
Multiple parties fight for political power and everyone voting on them is the only path to salvation to the long-suffering developing world. Those who buy the prospectus are destined for success. Those who do not are doomed to fail. But this time, the Chinese didn’t buy it. Fool me once… (Laughter)(Applause)