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A man who never surrenders

By YANG YANG | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-20 08:17


Cai's autobiography Xiangxin (To Believe).[Photo provided to China Daily]

Cai Lei, former executive of a major company, reveals how ALS diagnosis set him on the path to find a cure, Yang Yang reports.

Two big, bold characters stand firmly on the cover of the book Xiangxin (To Believe), as if written by a swift and resolute hand with a heart of fortitude, in ink that turns from black to the color of blood as it moves to the right.

The preamble on the cover states: "Even in failure, never surrender."

That is how Cai Lei, former vice-president of JD Group, faces amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which he was diagnosed with in 2019, at the age of 41. The book, published recently, tells vividly the story of his unique battle with this terminal illness.

Born in a small city in Central China's Henan province in 1978, Cai has been profoundly influenced by his father's idea that "one has to fight for himself".

Cai's father, the eldest of seven children born to a poor farmer's family, was a veteran, and applied military-style discipline in the home, urging Cai and his younger brothers to study hard and fight for a better future.

Since the fifth year of primary school, Cai has been getting up before 5 am to run, practice boxing and study English. Highly self-motivated, he pushed himself to finish every examination within half of the set time. In most examinations, he scored full marks, a feat for which he was nicknamed "alien".

Indeed, he was very much interested in science and UFOs, planning to study space physics at Peking University, but his father ordered him against his will to study finance and taxation at the Central University of Finance and Economics. For parents who had lived through poverty, securing a stable job was the most important thing.

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