IN-DEPTH / IN-DEPTH
Son of first foreign CPC member resolved to keep original aspiration thanks to letter from General Secretary Xi
Tribute to comradeship
Published: Oct 19, 2022 03:48 PM Updated: Nov 16, 2022 11:49 PM

A view of Yan'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province Photo: VCG

A view of Yan'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. Photo: VCG 


Editor's Note:


Chinese people believe that letters are as valuable as gold. For thousands of years, letters, across mountains and oceans, have been delivering the writers' sentiments, friendship, and expectations.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chinese president, has managed to find time to reply to some letters from different parts of society and the world despite his busy work schedule.

Through his letters, Xi has corresponded with international friends from all walks of life on numerous occasions, part of a series of excellent stories of China's international exchanges in the new era. The letters have also added vivid color to the diplomacy between China and other countries.

The Global Times traced and contacted some of the recipients of Xi's letters, to hear the inspiring stories behind the letters and their communication with the president. 

This first installment tells the story of the son of the first foreign CPC member, who grew up in Yan'an, a revolutionary base of the CPC in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and witnessed the Party's growth from obscurity to a formidable political power, which still never forgot its original aspiration.

Zhou Youma during an exclusive interview with the Global Times. Photo: Zou Zhidong/GT

Zhou Youma during an exclusive interview with the Global Times. Photo: Zou Zhidong/GT


"After coming to China, Communism gradually became my father's faith. He witnessed China's change from its backwardness, and as part of his experience, my father witnessed the country's transformation and elevation. I firmly believe that the CPC has maintained its original aspiration of striving for the people's welfare," said Zhou Youma, the son of George Hatem (1910-1988), the first foreigner to remarkably be granted both CPC membership and Chinese citizenship, when recalling receiving a reply letter from President Xi Jinping.

On September 14, 2021, Xi replied to a letter received from family members of some international friends, including Edgar and Helen Snow, George Hatem, Rewi Alley, and Israel Epstein, paying high tribute to said international friends who had stood and fought shoulder to shoulder with the CPC and the Chinese people through thick and thin.

China, Xi said, has always remembered their invaluable contributions to China's revolution, construction, and reform, and the earnest friendship expressed toward the CPC and the Chinese people, and will always cherish their memory.

In the past 100 years since its founding, the CPC has, answering the call of the times, people's expectations, and trust of its international friends, united and led the Chinese people in delivering the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects through unrelenting hard work, Xi said.

It is now leading the Chinese people in marching toward the second centenary goal of fully building a great modern socialist country, and in promoting the noble cause of world peace and development, he added.

"Indeed, the choices that your loved ones made decades ago are all worthy and honorable," Xi said in the reply letter.

"I hope you will follow the steps of your loved ones, and contribute your fair share to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between the Chinese people and people of the world, and to building a community with a shared future for mankind," he said.

"I am heartened and encouraged by the reply letter from President Xi Jinping," Zhou told the Global Times, saying that he vows to follow his father's example, actively promote the spirit of internationalism, and cooperate with international friends to enhance friendship between the Chinese people and the people of the world, making the image of China and the CPC more vivid and lovely.

In August 2021, 16 family members of international friends jointly penned and sent a letter to Xi. In the letter, they said they are proud that their family members chose to stand with the CPC and the Chinese people, and are willing to carry forward the internationalist spirit in the new era under the guidance of the initiative of building a community with a shared future for mankind, to make new contributions to enhancing the friendship between Chinese and foreign people and supporting China in realizing its second centenary goal.


Standing together through thick and thin

In 1933, George Hatem, an American doctor, came to Shanghai to study tropical infectious diseases. Influenced by his friends, Hatem began to read Marxist works and studied China's revolution. In 1936, Hatem arrived in Bao'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, then the temporary headquarters of the Chinese Red Army. In the months that followed, he joined Red Army troops in their operations.

"When I was a child, my father often told me about his experiences as a military doctor in Shaanxi and Ningxia, where he witnessed CPC members fighting for the poor and for a brighter future for the country, changing him from a revolutionary sympathizer to a soldier fighting for the revolutionary cause of the Chinese people," Zhou said.

In February 1937, Hatem officially joined the CPC. 

"My father told me that when he joined the Party, the entire membership of the CPC was not enough to fill today's Beijing Workers' Stadium. However, by 1947, CPC membership had grown by the millions, which reflected the rallying power of the CPC and the recognition of the Party by the Chinese people," Zhou said.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Hatem officially became a Chinese citizen in 1950, and was appointed as a medical consultant to the country's Ministry of Health, where he devoted himself to the bolstering of public health in the country, especially the prevention and treatment of, and research on venereal diseases and leprosy.

"Since I was a child, my father was always traveling to save lives. Even in the year that he died, he still personally visited some leprosy hospitals, touching the feet of patients to check if they had ulcers," Zhou said.


File photo: George Hatem treats leprosy patients. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou

File photo: George Hatem treats leprosy patients. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Youma



Staying true to the mission


Born and raised in Yan'an, the city which served as the base of the CPC-led revolution during the 1930s and 1940s, Zhou said he has witnessed many events involving Party members who, like his father, had dedicated themselves to changing the fate of the Chinese people.

"At that time, the people were facing poor living conditions, but the spirit and determination of the CPC members were high. At present, China is getting richer and stronger, and the living conditions of its people have been greatly improved. I am glad to see that the CPC has never forgotten its original intention and is still concerned about the most disadvantaged groups in this country," he said.


File photo: Zhou Youma (center) with his father George Hatem and his mother Zhou Sufei in Yan'an, Shaanxi Province. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou

File photo: Zhou Youma (center) with his father George Hatem and his mother Zhou Sufei in Yan'an, Shaanxi Province. Photo: Courtesy of Zhou Youma


By 2021, China achieved its poverty alleviation goal, lifting all the impoverished rural residents from extreme poverty.

What personally moves Zhou is that at every momentous occasion in the country, the Party and the government pay tribute to the international friends who have made valuable contributions to China's development. 

Currently, Zhou and his family are rooted in China, and just like his father's generation, are contributing to the country's development along with the vast majority of Chinese workers.