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Monday, July 27, 2015
UID Mourns Dear Friend and Great Supporter H.E. Cheng Siwei

It is with tremendous sadness that we share the passing of a dear friend and great supporter of the United in Diversity Foundation (UID), Mr. Cheng Siwei. Mr. Cheng died on the morning of Sunday, 12 July, 2015, in Beijing, China, at age 80.

It is no exaggeration to say that only a few have a CV like that of Mr. Cheng and a career like his. He was, indeed, a Renaissance man. Born in June 1935, in Xiangxiang, Hunan Province, China, Mr. Cheng was trained as an engineer and chemist in Hong Kong and mainland China.

After college, he worked in various units of both China's Ministry of Chemical Industry and Ministry of Petroleum and Chemical Industries from 1956 to 1980.

But the turning point for Mr. Cheng was in 1981 when he attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated from it with an MBA in 1984. It was at UCLA that he was exposed to the concept of venture capital. Upon his graduation, Mr. Cheng returned to China to promote the concept and, in 1998, successfully persuaded the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to set up a venture capital market.

Mr. Cheng is credited as the driving force behind the creation of the Nasdaq-style ChiNext, a development to channel venture capital into innovative and fast-growing enterprises--hi-tech companies in particular. And, therefore, Mr. Cheng will be remembered as "the Godfather" of China's venture capital market.

To be sure, his ground-breaking role in the Chinese venture capital market boosted Mr. Cheng's political career a great deal. After holding top positions within China's Ministry of Chemical Industry for years, Mr. Cheng became Chairman of the China Democratic National Construction Association (CDNCA) in 1997. And in 1998 he became Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Ninth and Tenth National People's Congresses--China's highest political body.

As an academic, Mr. Cheng held professorships at various universities, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Peking University and Nankai University. He authored numerous articles and books, including , including Chromic Salts Technology, Rejuvenating Chemical Industry through Science and Technology, Soft Science and Reform, Large Linear Target Programming and Application, Research in China's Economic Development and Reform and Economic Reform and Development in China.

Mr. Cheng spoke at many prestigious places, including the Brookings Institute and the World Economic Forum (WEF) and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Hong kong Polytechnic University.

But what made Mr. Cheng a dear friend and great supporter of UID went beyond his prestigious credentials: He was a truly a public servant and a leader with passion.

After meeting with our trustee Cherie Nursalim and the key faculty of our IDEAS (Innovative, Dynamic Education for Action and Sustainability) program, professors Otto Scharmer and Peter Singe from MIT Sloan School of Management, Mr. Cheng became a believer in the concept and our tri-sector approach.

De facto, he served as the UID ambassador in China, and his role behind the creation of our China IDEAS chapter was most critical. And this is why we couldn't find a more appropriate, better person to be the Chairman of UID's China IDEAS program than Mr. Cheng.

Honorable president of UID China, H.E. Cheng Siwei interacting with participants at IDEAS 1.0 classroom

"Without him I don't think we can quite achieve IDEAS in China as he believed in us when few understood what it was about," said UID trustee Cherie Nursalim upon hearing of Mr. Cheng's passing.

IDEAS China 2.0 Opening Ceremony in Tsinghua University on September 3rd, 2013 with H.E. Cheng Siwei, Tsinghua University and Central Organization Department Leadership.

"I feel this program [China IDEAS] is innovative," Mr. Cheng said in his speech at the launch of our China IDEAS 2.0 class.

"What makes the program stand out, he continued, is that it is based on group learning and self-education: During lectures [at universities], we generally listen to the teacher then go onto a discussion in which we always express how good it [the lecture] is and then finish. This program is not like that. Everyone is a teacher; everyone needs to shares his or her own past experience and feelings with the group. Last time I saw that the participants were reluctant to open up in the beginning; no one talked. And then slowly they got used to such format and talked quite enthusiastically. Therefore, this program has a different way of learning. Participants do not depend on the instructors. Rather, they learn from and communicate with one another. They absorb new things and then reflect on their own experiences and lessons learned.

For Mr. Cheng, to be a true leader is to emphasize with the people. Indeed, when he met our China IDEAS fellows--many of whom are high-ranking government officials--he asked them "not to behave 'bureaucratically', not to write long reports, and to take down their masks [sic] and...emphasize with the people around".

His belief in, and passion for, our China IDEAS program, was so great that when Cherie visited him in hospital two months before his passing he was still "speaking of hopes and encouraging of the [program]".

On a personal level, "he is someone who is brilliant in mind, high in integrity, courageous in his beliefs, genuine to the masses across all sectors, and hard-working even to his last. My soul is shattered by this news and we send our deepest condolences to his family", Cherie wrote.

Thank you, Mr. Cheng, for believing in IDEAS and for your wonderful friendship and everything you did for us.

Martin Luther King said: "It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it." Well, Mr. Cheng, you are among the few who actually did it well.

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