Speech by Mr. Li Ka-shing 10th Anniversary of the Cheung Kong Scholars Programme

05 December 2008

State Councilor Liu, Minister Zhou, officials, scholars, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. First of all, I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to all our award-winning scholars. I would also like to thank State Councilor Liu for taking time out to attend this ceremony and for her tremendous support.  The richness and success of this programme could not have been possible without the collaboration and support of the Ministry of Education and everyone involved in the programme, and I take this opportunity to express my appreciation.

When I was invited by the Minister of Education to support the establishment of the Cheung Kong Scholars Programme, I saw that it was a bold idea conceived to tackle two concerns that I share: the systemic constraints imposed by an inflexible and inadequate pay structure and the immense need for our country to attract and retain talent to foster innovation.

With the creation of the programme ten years ago, we sent a strong message – the message that we value people.  Individually and collectively, they are the key to a bright and prosperous future.  Looking back, I cannot share with you how happy I am that the promise embodied by this programme was fully realized. The immense change it ignited, as witnessed in society’s heightened respect for knowledge and scholars, and in academia’s invigorated enthusiasm and towering achievements, could never have been fully imagined.  Today, because of all of you, the programme has become a powerful turbine, powering new discoveries and new possibilities to extend the boundaries of science in universities and research organizations throughout China.

When I am asked why I – who has spent a large part of my life trying to build a successful enterprise delivering value to shareholders and members of the company – am now focused on giving so much away?  My answer is very simple, even amidst the sea of the now-in-vogue theories of social capital and social entrepreneurship.  My current and final priority began with a list of questions in my mind: if we could aggregate on a balance sheet all that we have accomplished or lost throughout mankind’s historic transmutation, what would be the truest and most fair view?  In a world of change, where old certainties no longer seem to apply, where are our enduring values?  In an age of prosperity and intensifying competition, when an individual’s fierce will to succeed is in overdrive, how can a message calling for informed, thoughtful, and a willing contribution to society’s mutual harmony be heard?  In a world where bureaucratization and a penchant for systems foment a deficit of imagination, how can a diversity of scientific and philosophical experience and sentiment become an essential part of an individual life and contribute to the whole?

If I have come to learn anything, I know that there is not a single prescription possible for a society to achieve genuine and lasting harmony with so many irreconcilable and conflicting values and value systems, but I do know that one single attitude is key to achieving progress in this area, if progress is to be achieved.  That key is our own personal dedication – giving ourselves to something greater than ourselves – something beyond the horizon and our own immediate desires and needs.  In our quest for success in our own micro-world, we must never lose sight of the contributions we can make to the macro-goals of our country and mankind.  It is when we are doing what we can with the capabilities we have and willingly fulfilling our duties and obligations to our nation and mankind that we will bring forth true hope and effective change to forge a fair, just, creative and harmonious society.  This is my personal quest.  I know it is yours, as well.  And I am very grateful for what the Cheung Kong Scholars Programme is doing to give it voice and reality.

Thank you.