Michael Puett

Speech Topics

In this talk, Michael Puett – who teaches the third most popular undergraduate course at Harvard, “Classical Chinese Political and Ethical Theory” – lays out the unconscious assumptions we tend to hold about ourselves and the world we live in, and then introduces us to Chinese philosophical teachings that challenge those assumptions and offer a fresh perspective on the self, relationships, influence, and creativity in their place.


The “Rise of China” has many in the West scrambling to understand how best to deal with this new potential world leader. Business and government leaders are constantly perplexed in their dealings with China: are they dealing with an all-powerful authoritarian state, or a pure laissez-faire economy?

Puett provides a framework for understanding what is really happening in China, explaining that much of how we view China is based on entrenched misperceptions. These misperceptions can only be cleared up when we understand the philosophical and historical frameworks that have shaped China today. He offers important lessons for anyone concerned about China’s rise and the future of the US.


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Michael Puett is the Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. He is the recipient of a Harvard College Professorship for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

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