PNG young table tennis player who receives reply letter from Xi looks forward to making greater contribution to promote bilateral ties with China
Published: Oct 19, 2022 04:41 PM
File photo: Geoffrey Loi (center) trains at the Chinese Table Tennis College of Shanghai University of Sport in 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Loi

File photo: Geoffrey Loi (center) trains at the Chinese Table Tennis College of Shanghai University of Sport in 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Loi

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.

During the past decade, 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 ordinary people despite his busy work schedule.

Through his letters, Xi has also 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 in the last decade.

Over the last few months, the Global Times reporters traced and contacted some of the recipients of Xi's letters, to hear the inspiring stories behind the letters and their contents.

A letter received back from Xi addressed to Geoffrey Loi, a young Papua New Guinea (PNG) table tennis player, has given him a new goal in life beyond the pursuit of his career in professional sports - to contribute more to the friendship between China and PNG.

"Receiving President Xi's reply letter and encouragement was one of the happiest and most honorable moments of my life," Loi told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

Loi thanked China for its contribution to the economic and social development of PNG, which has brought tangible benefits to local people, enabling them to train in the state-of-the-art campus and gymnasium with advanced facilities and have access to modern education. "I hope that the true friendship between the two countries will last for a long time," he said.

PNG was the first country in the Pacific Island region to sign the memorandum of understanding and cooperation plan with China on the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation on June 21, 2018. 

In the deepening friendship between China and PNG, a small table tennis ball has also become a bridge between the two countries.

In September 2019, he wrote to Xi to extend his heartfelt gratitude for his support for the table tennis cause in PNG and expressed his passion for Chinese culture and his best wishes for better China-PNG relations.  

In the same month, Xi sent a reply letter to Loi. In his reply, Xi recalled his visit to PNG last year, during which he watched Loi and his teammates training with their Chinese coach. The president congratulated the PNG table tennis team on the good results they won in the Pacific Games, and wished Loi and the PNG team new successes, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Loi met Xi in November 2018 at Butuka Academy, a PNG and China friendship school, in Port Moresby, PNG. That year, backed by the Shanghai University of Sports, a table tennis college center was established in the school.

After less than a year of training, in July 2019, Loi and his PNG table tennis team members won two silver medals at the Pacific Games, setting the best record in its history at the time, drawing enthusiastic responses from local communities.

Loi has a very deep affection for China, which was also enhanced by his trips to Shanghai to train with the PNG Table Tennis National Team in 2018 and 2019. 

"I feel very lucky and proud to get such a valuable training opportunity. As we all know, it's very hard to beat Chinese table tennis players, but in the process of being coached by them, I've been inspired by their game strategy, which has helped me a lot in my career development," Loi said. 

During his training days in China, the Chinese Table Tennis College of Shanghai University of Sport specially arranged several Chinese cultural experience courses such as paper-cutting, tai chi, and kunqu, which allowed the PNG athletes to learn more about China. It also made Loi develop a keen interest in Chinese culture.

"When I went to China, my ambition was to learn more new things," he said, adding that one of the things that fascinated him the most besides table tennis was wushu, which made him more focused.

Interestingly, among the three options of playing table tennis, learning Chinese, and doing the job his parents wish for him to pursue, Loi was most excited about learning Chinese.

"It is important to learn Chinese, there are many Chinese companies in PNG and the local people like Chinese people. I want to be a bridge between the people on both sides. I also hope to get a Chinese scholarship in the future to study and play table tennis in China." Loi said.

File photo: Geoffrey Loi (center) trains at the Chinese Table Tennis College of Shanghai University of Sport in 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Loi

File photo: Geoffrey Loi (second right) and his teammates participate in a traditional Chinese paper-cutting course in Shanghai. Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai University of Sport

Over the years, China has fully sponsored dozens of PNG students to study in China. At the same times, the Chinese government has provided economic and technical assistance to PNG without any political conditions attached, leading to the construction of a large number of roads, airports, hospitals, schools, power grids, and other important infrastructure projects, helping PNG develop its economy and improve people's livelihood, which is welcomed by the PNG government and people.

In August, the two governments made joint efforts to overcome the difficulties of the pandemic by organizing charter flights to help PNG students return to China to continue their studies.

At the moment, Loi is actively preparing for the ITTF-Oceania Melanesia Championships. Thanks to the close exchanges and cooperation between China and PNG, more and more PNG youth, like Loi, are gaining a bigger platform for developing in their favorite fields.

Loi hopes that the two countries' youths will learn from each other, deepen mutual understanding, and faithfully carry forward China-PNG friendship.