National medals presented
Six foreigners recognized for promoting friendship, unity
Published: Sep 30, 2019 01:03 AM

China held the award ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday morning to award national medals to 42 awardees including Chinese and foreigners. Photo: VCG  

Forty-two people, including Chinese and foreigners, were awarded the highest honors for their contributions to China over the past seven decades, which analysts said manifests the core of Chinese values.

President Xi Jinping presented national medals and honorary titles of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to awardees in the Great Hall of the People on Sunday morning, ahead of the country's grand celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, scheduled for Tuesday.

Thirty-six Chinese people were awarded the highest state honors. Eight recipients whose exceptional contributions to the development of China were recognized, receiving the Medal of the Republic, the top civilian award granted by China. Another 28 recipients were granted medals for national honorary titles for those who made exceptional contributions in specific fields. These include "the people's scientist," "the people's artist," "the people's hero" and "the people's role model." 

Six foreigners were awarded the Friendship Medal, which signifies long-lasting unity and friendship between Chinese people and foreigners. 

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivered a speech at the presentation ceremony. 

"Only when we worship heroes can heroes emerge; only when people strive to become heroes can heroes come forth," Xi said, adding that the CPC and the country have always paid tribute to heroes.

Who are the heroes?

Laureates of the Medal of the Republic included a posthumous award for Yu Min, dubbed the "father of China's hydrogen bomb." Yu was born in 1926 and died in January 2019. He was behind the country's first successful hydrogen bomb test during the Cold War era. The technological breakthroughs he made filled a national void in atomic nucleus theory.

Li Yannian is a combat hero who participated in more than 20 battles, including the Liberation War (1946-49), the Korean War (1950-53) and the Defensive Counterattack against Vietnam in 1979. He was awarded the title "First Class Hero" and honorary medals.

Professor Gao Mingxuan is one of the 28 laureates who received an honorary title. Gao, 91, is a renowned contemporary jurist and law educator, as well the main founder and pioneer of the criminal law of the PRC. 

Gao told the Global Times that his entire life has been devoted to academic research and he is still teaching. He noted that the younger generation often looks to the West and believes that whatever is Western must be good, instead of working in a down-to-earth manner.  

China held the award ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday morning to award national medals to 42 awardees including Chinese and foreigners. Photo: VCG

The six Friendship Medals were presented to Raul Castro, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba,  Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Galina Kullikova, first vice president of the Russia-China Friendship Association, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French prime minister and special representative of the French government for China, Tanzanian diplomat Salim Ahmed Salim and Canadian professor Isabel Crook.

In an interview with the Global Times on Thursday, Raffarin said he has been a witness to the incredible and impressive development of China during the past 50 years, while the international situation is deeply troubled by the return of the excesses of nationalism, protectionism and unilateralism, largely incarnated by US President Donald Trump. 

Isabel Crook, 104, is one of the six foreigners who won the Friendship Medal. Crook, emeritus professor of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, has made outstanding contributions to China's education and communication with foreign countries.

Michael Crook, son of Isabel Crook, told the Global Times on Sunday that his mother feels honored to receive this award. What's more, she feels honored to have witnessed and even participated in China's revolutions and development.

Crook said the award reminded his mother of many of her friends. "Those who have died would feel happy to see today's China if they were alive," Crook said.

Holding on to values

As the awards were granted at such an important time, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, analysts believe it bears great historical and social significance and will help generate centripetal strength and unity among the entire Chinese society.

Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, believes that the awards to both Chinese people and foreigners on the 70th anniversary of the PRC's founding are paying respect to the history of the past seven decades. All the recipients are advanced in years, which means their contributions have withstood the test of history.

Zhang noted that the most prominent characteristics of these people is persistence and being down-to-earth, which is also the key spirit of modern China.

"The awards are a manifestation of the values that Chinese people endorse," Zhang told the Global Times on Sunday.

Zhang Shuhua, director of the Institute of Information Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was among the Chinese scholars who proposed setting up a national honorary system.

"We need to cultivate heroes and we need a social atmosphere for the emergence of heroes, and the awards will encourage us to pursue something just and positive," Zhang Shuhua told the Global Times on Sunday.

An alumnus of the Beijing-based Beihang University which specializes in aeronautical and space technologies, who gave his surname as Li, told the Global Times on Sunday that he felt encouraged by the award to Sun Jiadong, who played a leading role in the design of the country's first recoverable remote-sensing satellite and first geostationary communication satellite. 

Li now works in the aeronautical field.

"The work is hard, and we often have to work overtime, but the spirit of the older generation like Sun will drive us to work persistently and continuously," Li said.

Cao Siqi and Chen Qingqing contributed to the story