I first met Chenggang Rui at the 2006 Asia Society Young Leaders Summit in Seoul. I had no idea he was younger than me as he had a self-confidence of years beyond his actual age.
The NY Times has a long profile of Chenggang: Capitalism Finds Voice in China TV. It’s a good read and covers a the Starbucks in the Forbidden City issue that became a hot topic right after I had met him in late 2006.
What’s more interesting about Chenggang for me is that he has very thoughtful views on Japan, which is not that common in China (at least on the Chinese Internet.) ESWN has a great translation of a post from Chenggang’s blog from September 2006 where he discusses his views on Japan.
Japan is a country that is closest to us but one about which we least understand. Most of our young people know much more about the European and American countries than Japan. Of course, Japan is not an easy country to understand, and there are two sides to the Japanese people. But from the viewpoint of a third person, Japan is no more difficult to understand than China. The problem is not that Japan cannot be understood. Instead, the issue is whether we are willing to try to understand. (Ruth Benedict’s <The Chrysanthemum and The Sword> and Lai Xiao’er’s
are excellent books).
Those foreign friends who have visited China told me almost without exception that China was more splendid and better than they imagined. A trip to China often corrected their bad or mistaken ideas through reading too many novels. If you genuinely want to know Japan, a trip to Japan can often change many things. With this purpose, I went to visit Japan and it changed many of my previous over-simplified and subjective views.