I think Damien Ma grants Eric X. Li (李世默, Li Shimo. I have no idea where the X. comes from.) far too much credibility with his analysis of his editorial in the NYT. (Does every venture capitalist get invited to post whatever he wants on the pages of the newspaper of record? Has the old gray lady sunk to the level of the steadily sinking Huffpo?) Even as Ma rightly concludes that Eric Li's ideas are "unformulated and inchoate", he asserts "Li, and other emerging voices like his, deserve to be
watched." And I suppose that I can equally assert that an approaching train wreck merits watching, too. But I would only say that in order that we learn how to avoid further trainwrecks, not because there is anything of value in trainwrecks.
I come from a different perspective, having been tasked with teaching composition to young Chinese students whose parents' greatest ambition is to send their progeny abroad to earn a diploma from a western university. I have slogged through so many similarly written essays that I find nothing in the style nor content worthy of comment on other than perhaps to point out that Eric X. Li has managed to parlay his way through a western education without it improving his writing style in any way. His daddy's dream was afterall that his son get a diploma, not strictly get an education.
The lack of logical coherency, the unsupported claims, and the
exaggerated sense of importance are fully on display in his essay. As Stanford maintains its mandate to open its doors to privileged offspring
of all races, creeds, and private clubs, we witness more the growing
similarities between the Chinese 1% with their American prototypes. And just as in the same way that a man who habitually insists on eponymously christening every building he classes up with gilding and mirrors can get a gaggle of reporters to quote him and seem interested, "the Eric" has his own cheerleaders and sycophants who act as though they can comprehend whatever deep thought he pronounces: here, here, and this guy.
I am not going to pick apart Eric Li's essay here. Somebody else at Chroniclinghate with more idle time on his hands than I has already gotten down into that gutter. I never saw much value in redeeming such essays even when I was paid to do so. Just to be clear, the arguments of the essay are far less important than their placement. Acknowledgement by the NYT is what every venture capitalist needs to grease the wheels of China's bureaucratic institutions and sell whatever business plan he and his cronies can cook up. That's for the Chinese readership.
What those without any interest guanxi can gain from this piece is unclear. The essay reads like a piece of satire, intentional or not. There is always doubt in my mind whether conservative thinkers understand when they are the object of satire. Stephen Colbert's viewership, for example, is full of the types whose ideas and sacred cows he regularly gores, but for them it's all a hoot. So I was pleased that James Fallows tipped me off to this bit of pointed skewering. I suspect that the elder Mr. Li will enjoy learning about yet an example of how much attention his bilingual son gets in the international press. Gan bei!