TEDxCity2.0 Spotlight: Beijing

In December, for the first time ever, the TED Prize went not to an individual but to an idea on which our planet’s future depends: the City 2.0. This is the city of the future in which more than ten billion people must somehow live happily, healthfully, and sustainably.

This October 13, 2012, TEDxCity2.0 will be a day when TEDx communities around the world will host an event to share the powerful narratives of urban innovators and organizers, stewards and artists, builders and tastemakers. The TEDx platform will harness the power of people across the globe to encourage them to host a TEDx event, themed “City 2.0.”


Ellen Cheng is the organizer of TEDxFactory798, a TEDxCity2.0 event in Beijing, China. We recently talked to her about the event, her visions for a future Beijing, and City 2.0.

TEDx: Why did you decide to host a City 2.0 event? What do you think it offers your community?

Jason from TEDxTaipei once invited me to write a guest blog on the TEDxTaipei blog on what the TEDx community in Beijing looked like. However, I ended up just writing a whole piece on the city of Beijing. I described how Beijing is the most tolerant city in the world, despite its rigorous political system and chaotic social ecosystem. It’s problematic, apocalyptic, with heavy pollution and traffic jams. I am really inspired to rediscover its wonders.

City 2.0 inspires conversations. And also promotes actions. We hope we are the beginning of a series of change after the event ends. We offer our community a platform for ideas worth spreading, as well as a solid back-up for more actions. It’s where ideas worth spreading and actions worth doing converge.


TEDx: How is planning going? What has stood out to you so far? What are you most looking forward to at TEDxFactory798?

We just had our open discussion two weeks ago, to invite public who are intrigued in this topic of City 2.0 in Beijing. We have been trying to define and identify the meaning of it. Like Web 2.0, the essence of City 2.0 lies in “User-Generated” and “Radical Interaction.”

We embrace the belief that individual action can bring collective and colossal change. This is a chapter in our community’s life in which we defy conventional wisdom, shine light on human dignity, and profile our culture with self-conscious engagement from the bottom up.

We are encouraging actions. Not only did we discuss ideas regarding typical public spaces, but we have started a dialogue with the government-backed subway line, and hopefully we can have a photo exhibition themed “City2.0” in subway stations.

You know it’s not easy for a country like China, where it’s even hard to explain what TEDx is, considered its core value is “ideas worth spreading”….But we might be able to create history this time if we succeed, and it’s worth trying no matter what.

TEDx: What are some things you have prepared for this year? Anything exciting?

Actions. We want to convey the message that it’s the first time that TED has chosen an idea rather than a person for the TED Prize, and we are really pushing hard for actions to happen after the talks.

As far as the event goes, we’re happy to have found someone who shares this goal: a creative director who works full-time in the advertising industry, but has started to do a documentary of the city with his creativity and skills. He records what thinkers, doers and visionaries in 4 cities of China see their cities in the future, and he will use the power of video to visualize their thoughts.

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