The Corner

Culture

Big Brain, Bigger Heart

Readers of National Review and National Review Online are well familiar with Jianli Yang. He has been my friend for many years, and I have been writing about him for many years. We have now done a Q&A podcast together: here.

Jianli is a democracy activist from China. He was at Tiananmen Square. In a subsequent decade, he was imprisoned by the Party, for five years. He has two Ph.D.s: one in math from Berkeley, and the other in political economy from Harvard. He now heads Initiatives for China, in Washington, D.C.

What do we talk about in this podcast? Well, a lot of things, but the occasion for our talk is the decision of the International Olympic Committee to grant the Games, yet again, to Beijing, i.e., the Chinese dictatorship, i.e., the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).

In the course of our discussion, Jianli and I realize that the IOC and the CCP are made for each other: The CCP is in the bribe-giving business (among other businesses, such as repression, torture, and murder); the IOC is in the bribe-taking business. A perfect marriage!

Jianli and I also talk about Tibet. And organ harvesting. And Mao: “The worst that humanity has to offer,” says Jianli.

As regular readers know, this man — Jianli, not Mao! — is one of my favorite people in life. This is true for many reasons, but consider the following, in particular:

Jianli Yang could be doing any number of things in life. He is a brilliant mathematician, a brilliant economist, etc. (I happen to know that a leading passion is poetry.) He could be in a very comfortable and very lucrative academic position. I have no doubt that he could be making a fortune in business — including business with China. He is a big brain, and unusually versatile. But he is devoting his life to democracy activism (and did nothing to avoid prison, years back — quite the contrary).

We talk about this at the end of the podcast (here, again). What a man. If you don’t know him, you’ll want to.

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