A Chinese intellectual’s response to Xi’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students

In response to President Xi Jinping’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students at Moscow University, a Chinese academic based in Cape Town shares his experiences from the Cultural Revolution, his thoughts on China’s development, and encourages China’s young generation to work hard for “mankind’s common prosperity”. Permission was given by the Chinese intellectual to translate and publish his thoughts – first shared in a closed social media group for overseas Chinese students in South Africa – on WhoKou.

I was filled with emotion after reading President Xi’s New Year remarks to the Chinese students at Moscow University in response to their letter to the President. Over 50 years ago, one of Chairman Mao’s great teachings – “Young people are like the sun at eight or nine in the morning; our hope is placed on you” – put our generation on the path to learning. However, the Cultural Revolution did not allow us to experience the sunlight; instead, a political storm came, and our youth was filled with confusion. Being forced to go and work in the fields every day – with our faces to the land and our backs to the sky – were wasted years that shattered our dreams.

The country’s “reform and opening-up” policy brought us hope, and university doors opened to ordinary people once again. We finally had the opportunity to enrich ourselves and to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to serve the motherland, and our hope of rejuvenating the Chinese nation was rekindled.

After 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has undergone earth-shaking changes. Our generation has risen from the turbulent ruins of the Cultural Revolution, licked our wounds, and equipped ourselves with newfound knowledge to make whatever contribution we can to the rejuvenation of our country. Now we are at a new starting point, a starting point where everyone is trying to make contributions to the Chinese dream. Revisiting what Chairman Mao said to young people in Moscow 60 years ago and what President Xi said to young students in Moscow today is such a special moment.

Today, China’s national strength has been greatly enhanced, and our nation’s policy of letting people get rich has made studying abroad no longer as difficult a task as travelling to the moon. Young people must treasure every opportunity to learn from the world, learn from each other, contribute to the great renaissance of China and make the Chinese dream come true.

Let’s take a look at the world today. The Cold War has ended in theory but, seen from a broader perspective, the conflicts are still ongoing. Some western countries continue to adopt Hitler’s ideology for global hegemony, playing a zero-sum game in order to promote a western standard of democracy and a free market economy. This is on a different track from China’s strategy of peaceful development, a strategy that takes the strengths of mankind and the shared destiny of mankind on board, and creates a vision for the Chinese dream.

Although the goal of Communism ─ to free mankind all over the world ─ sounds very distant from current reality (and may even carry the smell of gunpowder) the Chinese people share a belief that we must work towards the common good of mankind’s shared destiny. Some intellectuals and western media look down upon us, saying that Chinese people “have no faith”. As a matter of fact, whether you believe in God or you believe in people, with or without religion, people can judge good from evil. Therefore, we must cultivate ourselves and always have a grand goal in mind, and work hard to contribute our youthful years to the betterment of mankind’s destiny. It is every Chinese countryman’s responsibility.

At this special moment when China’s Belt and Road Initiative is being implemented, let us join hands and pass our spirit from generation to generation, and show the world Chinese people’s sincerity and kindness. In another 60 years, China will be different from now. We will achieve common prosperity, and live good lives in peace and harmony. Students, let’s work hard together!

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