ASEAN, China hail youth exchanges, investing in future becomes consensus in dealing with challenges
Published: Aug 07, 2023 11:28 PM Updated: Aug 07, 2023 11:48 PM
Photo: Wang Qi/GT

Photo: Wang Qi/GT

Diplomats and students from both ASEAN countries and China on Monday hailed the close ties between the two sides and also stressed the importance of promoting youth exchanges for future regional development and prosperity, as they attended the ASEAN-China Youth Forum in Fuzhou, East China's Fujian Province.

The forum is a part of the ongoing ASEAN-China Week, which kicked off on Sunday in Fuzhou. 

Shi Zhongjun, secretary-general of the ASEAN-China Center (ACC), said in his opening speech that youth are not only the pillars for national and economic development of both ASEAN and China, but also the bonds for closer ASEAN-China ties.

Youth in the region hold great potential for consolidating the foundation and future of ASEAN- China cooperation. According to statistics, it is estimated that young people account for 25-30 percent of the population in both ASEAN and China, Shi said. 

"Increased exchanges and friendship between youth in the region solidifies the corner stone for long-term and more prosperous ASEAN-China cooperation," Shi said, noting that youth are the trailblazers for an ASEAN-China future in the face of global challenges and uncertainties. 

Youths are the key that will unlock our full potential… it is important that we instill in our youth, who are our future leaders, a sense of cooperation and collaboration as a means to address common challenges and issues, said Kung Phoak, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and ASEAN SOM Leader of Cambodia.

I strongly believe that the forum will promote further tolerance and empathy, breaking down barriers and stereotypes that may exist between different cultures, and promoting mutual understanding among youth from ASEAN member states and China, he noted. 

Djauhari Oratmangun, ambassador of Indonesia to China, described young people as the architects of the future.

It is becoming more critical in this challenging era for ASEAN and China to bring their youth together to strengthen understanding and trust of each other's cultures and values. We can achieve stability and prosperity only by fostering our future leaders' relationships, Oratmangun said. 

During the forum, student representatives from both China and ASEAN nations shared their stories of youth exchanges and thoughts on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)'s role in promoting regional prosperity. 

During the buffet, students from China and ASEAN countries sat together and talked with each other and exchanged their contact numbers. Some students volunteered to go on stage and introduce themselves, some held hands and sang together. 

They also further experienced Chinese culture through visiting workshops introducing traditional Chinese skills and handicrafts, like ceramics, printing, dyeing, and tea making, in the afternoon.  

Besides the forum, ASEAN countries and China have actively promoted and supported youth exchanges over the past decades through various programs such as "the ASEAN-China Youth Exchange Visit, ASEAN-China Young Leaders Programme, and ASEAN-China Youth Summit."

Alwin Widyan Hutama, a junior student from Riau province, Indonesia, is currently studying Chinese language education at Huaqiao University in Xiamen on a government scholarship. He noted that his ancestral home is Xiamen.

"I grew up watching Chinese TV series with my grandparents, and now I finally have the opportunity to study in China, which is a chance to further improve myself," Hutama told the Global Times on Monday. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hutama spent the first two years at college taking online classes in Indonesia. He came to China this spring after the country adjusted its pandemic prevention policy.

My Chinese classmates are very friendly and the college sometimes organizes tours to take us to other cities in China, Hutama said, noting he was very happy that many classmates invited him to visit their hometown.

Compared with the US, Hutama said China has better opportunities for development and a bigger market. "As a Chinese-Indonesian, the barriers of language and culture are smaller, and there is a sense of intimacy," Hutama said. 

He said that his future plan is to return to Indonesia and become a Chinese teacher to share the Chinese culture and knowledge he learned in China with Indonesians.

"Indonesians have a good impression of China. I hope I can further promote and develop the friendly relations between the two countries in the future," Hutama said.