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Youth exchange program promotes understanding of China
International exchange program of the Global Young Leaders Dialogue promotes mutual understandings
By Hu Fan VOL. 13 AUGUST ·2021-07-26
Participants pose for a group photo in a village in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, on May 23 (COURTESY)

When invited for a tour to Jiangxi Province in June, Donatien Niyonzima didn't hesitate to accept the offer. Having been in China for three years as a Rwandan student at the Communication University of China in Beijing, he has taken every possible chance to understand the country. For him, the best way to do so is to travel to different places and experience life there personally.

The trip was unlike any other ones he has made in the country. The previous trips he has participated in were mainly about witnessing the real changes at the grass-roots level. The trip to Jiangxi, on the other hand, helped him understand why these changes could take place. Being an important revolutionary base, the province is home to various locations where important events at the early stage of the Chinese revolution led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) took place.

"It gave me a glance at what Chinese people have gone through to reach the stage of development they are at today," Niyonzima told ChinAfrica.

The trip is one of a series of 2021 China Tours to different provinces of China held under the Global Young Leaders Dialogue (GYLD). Other destinations include Guizhou, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Hebei provinces. For each tour, a multinational group consisting of young Chinese and foreigners in China was formed.

Jointly initiated by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a leading non-governmental think tank in China, and the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies under China International Publishing Group, the GYLD program aims at building a unique communication, education and professional development platform for young achievers under the age of 45 with diverse regional, cultural, disciplinary, sectorial and professional backgrounds across the globe.

"The GYLD China Tours program highlights diversity, internationalism and dialogue, and we intend to present China in more dimensions," said Miao Lu, co-founder and Secretary General of the CCG.

Participants play table tennis with kids in a training base in Zhengding, Hebei Province, on June 25 (COURTESY)

Understanding the CPC

As China celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, visits to important historical sites of the Party were included in the GYLD trips. Apart from Jiangxi Province, where the Party built the Soviet Republic of China in the county of Ruijin in 1931, 10 years after the founding of the Party, such visits were also made to Guizhou, Shaanxi and Hebei.

ln Zunyi, Guizhou Province, participants visited the sites where one of the most important meetings in the history of the CPC was held in January 1935 during the Long March.

The first stop of the Shaanxi tour was Yan'an, which is another important place in the history of the Party. It was where the headquarters of the Party were located from 1935 to 1948. An exhibition there showed how the Party laid emphasis on communication with the world even during its toughest times.

In Xibaipo, Hebei Province, the participants visited the meeting rooms where the Party leaders made preparation for founding the People's Republic of China.

The visitors were impressed by the strong will of the CPC to fight for the country despite the tough conditions they had. "We are living in such a modern world that many of us forget that how hard our ancestors and those who came before us had to work to get those things," said Victoria E. Cann, Jamaican lecturer at the Communication University of China, after visiting a former residence of Chairman Mao Zedong during the tour in Shaanxi.

These places they visited were mostly among the poorest places in China back in the days of the revolution. Today, life has greatly changed there as a result of poverty alleviation efforts. The participants had the chance to experience the elements that have contributed to lifting people out of poverty, such as tea plantations in Guizhou, cherry orchards in Shaanxi and smart farms in Hebei.

"Whenever we talk about China's success, we talk about its drastic achievements, but really the focus is how common people are seeing a better life," said Zoon Mhmed, a researcher from Pakistan with an institute of Tsinghua University on the studies of the Belt and Road Initiative, in her speech at a forum held during the tour in Shaanxi.

Local development

The opportunity that the program provides to understand China from multidimensional perspectives, the coexistence of ancient traditions and modern lifestyle and great contrast between the past and the current development greatly impressed the young participants.

In Guizhou, one of the less developed areas of China, participants were introduced to the gigantic 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), one of the world's largest telescopes, and labs showing cutting-edge big data programs, a key industry for local growth.

In the eyes of Tobias Beck, project manager of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation that operates in China, this is not paradoxical but rather reasonable. "The infrastructure and service sector that develop around big data are not only for programers, but also provide jobs for the service industry that cater to the sector," he said.

In the tour to Guangdong, the frontier of China's reform and opening-up practices, the participants got especially fruitful knowledge about how the country has developed into the world's second-largest economy. After 40 years, the province is still leading China in terms of development and innovation.

They visited Tencent and Huawei facilities and robot factories. In Nansha District of Guangzhou, capital city of the province, they were impressed by the rapid growth of the new region established in 1993. "It is almost like Shenzhen, starting from scratch and becoming the center of the whole area," said Georgian Gogiashvili Kaha, Co-Director of Startup Grind Beijing.

They were also taken to a government affairs center and a talent-themed park, to see how the innovative system of local governance and talent development support the building of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. At the Shenzhen Reform and Opening-Up Exhibition Hall, they viewed the city's history of development over the past four decades and exchanged ideas with Shenzhen locals.

"There is a lot we can learn in terms of how the Chinese economy developed from the reform and opening-up," said Tungamirai Eric Mupona, a Zimbabwean student at the Zhejiang University of Science and Technology.

Participants exchange ideas in a seminar in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, on June 26 (COURTESY)

Youth power

For Niyonzima, the trips offered an opportunity for young people from all walks of life and with different professional backgrounds to exchange and learn from one another. "As we proceeded from one place to another, from day one till the last day of our trip, ideas, suggestions, experience sharing kept flowing," he said.

The teams for each tour consist of Chinese and foreigners in China with different background, including reporters, editors and anchors in Chinese media, staff members of international companies and institutions, college teachers and students, and researchers.

Discussions were held during each trip, where local experts and young people were invited to deliver speeches and the participants shared their stories in China. In his Jiangxi trip, Niyonzima had the chance to exchange ideas with local experts on Party history, young teachers of a local university, and artists in Jingdezhen, known as the capital of Porcelain.

"Young people and young leaders of tomorrow need platforms like GYLD to understand the origins and foundations of visionary leadership," he concluded.

That is what the GYLD program is designed for: to nurture the development of globally minded young leaders and foster mutual understanding among them by bringing together the brightest young minds from all over the world and engaging them in discussions of global issues that will shape the future of humankind.

On March 24, the program launched WiseDemo Campaign, which calls for proposals from young experts around the world for innovative solutions to today's challenges in global governance along GYLD's areas of focus. Its other planned activities include graduate seminars for young professionals, issue-specific working groups of young influencers, and financial support for research on global governance.

"We have built up this platform to get young people together, and turn them into a community to address global challenges and concerns," said Miao. 

(Print Edition Title: Voyage of Understanding)

Comments to hufan@chinafrica.cn

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