Xi’s letter to overseas students at Peking University triggers the youth’s curiosity to see future China
Published: Oct 25, 2022 02:06 PM Updated: Feb 22, 2023 02:06 PM
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 writers' sentiments and conveying 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.

In this installment, we talked to foreign students studying at Peking University, who received a reply letter from President Xi, along with his encouragement to foreign students to gain a deeper understanding of China and to play an active role in promoting friendship between the peoples of all countries.

Overseas students at Peking University share their feelings after receiving President Xi's letter in June 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Peking University

Overseas students at Peking University share their feelings after receiving President Xi's letter in June 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Peking University

Sharing their understandings

Young people are the barometer of any era. Nowadays in China, there are many young people from all over the world studying or working here, and with their sharp insights and fresh perspectives, they serve as witnesses to what is happening in China and are a bridge through which the world can understand China.

The foreign students at Peking University, after seeing the development miracles in China and experiencing how the country successfully contained the COVID-19 epidemic, would like to share their observations on and understanding of China and the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core.

They sent out a letter and heard from the Chinese President in June 2021.

"To understand today's China, one must understand the CPC," Xi wrote in the letter.

"You mentioned that the CPC has committed itself to developing the economy, eradicating poverty and actively assisting other countries in fighting COVID-19," said Xi. "The CPC is committed to these aims because it is a political party that strives for both the well-being of the Chinese people and human progress."

"Seeing is believing," said Xi, inviting overseas students to visit more parts of the country.

Andrea dal Mas, a Peking University graduate from Italy, delivers a speech at the Peking University graduation ceremony on July 15, 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Andrea dal Mas

Andrea Dal Mas, a Peking University graduate from Italy, delivers a speech at the Peking University graduation ceremony on July 15, 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Dal Mas

In the spring of 2021, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the CPC, 45 foreign student representatives from 32 countries at Peking University wrote a letter to President Xi.
In the letter, they conveyed the thoughts and experiences they have had while studying and living in China, and expressed their appreciation of the achievements China has made under the CPC's leadership, as well as their recognition of the CPC's people-centered philosophy of development. 

"We wrote about our academic life at Peking University and our experience of living in China, sharing our observations on China's achievements in economic development, poverty alleviation, and other aspects," Andrea Dal Mas, one of the authors and a Peking University graduate from Italy, told the Global Times.

Each student penned an individual section. In the end, the dozens of letters were compiled into one three-page letter. 

With great anticipation from the students, the letter was sent out. 

Much to their surprise, a letter from President Xi arrived on June 21.

In his letter, President Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, encouraged foreign students at Peking University to gain a deeper understanding of China as it really is, urging them to share their thoughts and experiences with more people and play an active role in promoting friendship among people from all over the world.

On the same night, the foreign students gathered in a meeting room, read the letter together, and shared their joy. 

"In the process of drafting the letter together, I have gotten a deeper understanding of the importance of communication and a more comprehensive understanding of China. In the future, I want to spread the voice of China more and better, so that more people can have a more realistic understanding of China," said An Ze, a Latvian pursuing a doctorate at the School of Journalism & Communication at Peking University.

"I was amazed the letter would reach President Xi's hands, and he would reply to us," Dal Mas said, voice louder with excitement over the phone when recalling the story. 

"President Xi's letter is for all the foreign students in China who bear the same thoughts and faith as us. It means that he values the group of young people like us, and we feel grateful," he said.

In his 2014 visit to Peking University, Xi was greeted by staff and students during a poem recital session set to violin music. The verses – one about youth and the other penned by Mao Zedong – were aptly chosen, as Xi's visit coincided with the 95th anniversary of the May 4th Movement.

In a symposium that followed, Xi shared stories from his own youth. "Life is meaningful only when one leads a life with faith, dreams, and endeavors and makes contributions," he told the students.

Referring to the way of fastening their clothes, Xi told the students that the younger generation should "button right" in the early days of their life. He reminded his audience that their values will impact society in the future, and they have reached an age when they must realize and establish their value.

Developing with China

After moving to China with his parents in 1999 at the young age of 4 and a half, Dal Mas spent most of his life in China. In the last 20 years, he has been studying in public schools in Beijing, speaking fluent Putonghua with an unmistakable Beijing accent, while making friends with his local peers.

Through growing up in the country, he has gained a deep understanding of Chinese society. "I have traveled to many places. I went to Southwest China's Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, which were remote and poverty-stricken, but I saw how the country has managed to support local construction and development," he said.

"To understand today's China, one must understand the CPC." This sentence from President Xi's letter impressed Dal Mas the most.

"I have lived in China for so long and have truly experienced the CPC's contributions to the country. For instance, the CPC would formulate five-year plans and work toward the goals laid out, which brings people a sense of stability," he said.

"In the future, I would like to stay in China and be part of its development. Because I am still curious about China's future and want to personally participate in the rapid development of the country," he said.

This letter from President Xi was also a beautiful conclusion to Dal Mas' academic life at Peking University. A month later, he graduated from the university's College of Engineering with a master's degree.

He was selected as the representative of post-graduate students to deliver a speech at the ceremony. 

"After receiving the letter from President Xi, my wish to consistently gain new knowledge and learn about China has been further strengthened," he said during the speech. "Today we graduate from Peking University, but for the community with a shared future for mankind, we shall get together again."