President's correspondence with foreign youths shows his personal approach to diplomacy
Despite his busy daily schedule, President Xi Jinping makes time for correspondence with young people in foreign countries as a means of making China better known in the rest of the world.
Over the past years, the Chinese leader has replied to dozens of letters from young foreigners who are keenly interested in studying the Chinese language and learning about Chinese culture.
In letters replying to teenagers in countries such as the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Italy and Malta, Xi has encouraged these young envoys of friendship to boost the bonds between their own nations and China.
Such exchanges of letters show the president's personal approach to diplomacy and China's great openness to the world for more communication and exchanges, experts said.
The latest letter was a reply last month to students at a Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest, Hungary. Xi welcomed the students to study at Chinese universities after their graduation and said he hoped that more young people from Hungary would love and study the Chinese language.
"Young people are not only inheritors of traditional friendship, but will also play a key role in initiating more friendly cooperation in the future," said Yu Jiang, deputy secretary-general of the Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy Studies Center and vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies.
Through the letters, Xi expressed his hope for greater efforts to promote mutual understanding among people in different countries and to promote the harmonious coexistence of different civilizations, thus contributing to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, Yu said.
Even when political relations between two countries suffer setbacks, ordinary people can still express their aspiration for mutual understanding and friendship through people-to-people exchanges at various levels, including correspondence.
In 2020, 50 students in the fourth grade at Cascade Elementary School in the US state of Utah wrote greeting cards to Xi in Chinese on the eve of Spring Festival, telling him about their Chinese language learning and personal hobbies. They also expressed their love for China and Chinese culture, as well as their hopes for a chance to visit China.
In his reply letter, Xi told the students that, like the US, China is a big country and that the Chinese people are as hospitable as the American people, and he said he hoped that they would become young ambassadors of friendship between the two peoples.
In 2019, Xi wrote back to a group of US high school students who were studying Chinese at Niles North High School in Illinois.
Though China and the US are at odds on a number of issues, the exchange of letters between Xi and American students has shown that interactions between people at all levels of society should be a normal part of bilateral ties, experts said.
Li Haidong, head of China Foreign Affairs University's American Studies Center, said it is particularly urgent to increase communication among young people amid a complicated and volatile international situation.
"Cultural communications and exchanges play a key role in deepening mutual understanding among different countries, societies and peoples. And people-to-people diplomacy, as part of a country's multidimensional diplomacy, is thought to help better explain China to the rest of the world," Li said.
Yu, from the CIIS, said the exchange of letters has also enabled people to see how cordial and sincere the Chinese leader is through his efforts to promote China's language and culture on the global stage.
In December, Xi replied to a letter from students at four Saudi colleges before he started a state visit to Saudi Arabia. The president noted that young people are a source of infinite hope and the younger generation is the future of China-Saudi Arabia and Sino-Arab friendship.
He expressed his hope that the students would cherish the good times and study hard in order to make new contributions to enhancing friendship between Chinese and Saudi people, as well as between Chinese and Arab people in general.
Wesal Abdulrahman Alqarni, who majors in Chinese language at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia's west coast city of Jeddah, was one of the students who wrote to Xi. For her, there might be no better encouragement than a letter from the Chinese president.
"I was so excited and immediately told my family (about the reply).They were all proud of me. I am very lucky that I met the Chinese language during the most beautiful years of my life, (President Xi's reply) has further strengthened my confidence in learning Chinese well," she said in an earlier interview with Xinhua News Agency.
Inspired by Xi's letter, Alqarni said she will work hard on Chinese so that she can eventually become a teacher of the language and help more Saudis to learn Chinese. She also said she wanted to devote herself to translating more videos and articles about China on social media to introduce China to the rest of the world.
According to the Foreign Ministry, by the end of 2021, over 180 countries and regions had begun Chinese language education, and 76 countries had included such programs in their national curriculum. In addition, the number of people learning Chinese overseas has exceeded 25 million, and nearly 200 million people have learned or used Chinese outside of China.
In a letter written to Xi in 2021, representatives of young foreign participants in the Global Young Leaders Dialogue from 28 countries talked about their trips to China and expressed their hope of serving as a bridge in promoting exchanges and dialogue between China and the rest of the world.
The Global Young Leaders Dialogue is a program that provides a platform for the sharing of ideas and mutual learning among young people from different countries and fields.
In his reply letter, Xi hailed their active efforts to visit various parts of China and deepen their understanding of the country, and he welcomed more young people from overseas to visit China for exchanges.
"All of our young participants were greatly inspired by Xi's letter. They felt so honored and excited to have a dialogue in this way with a major country's head of state," said Miao Lu, the founder of the dialogue, adding that the young people will continue to benefit from Xi's words in the future.
Miao, who is also secretary-general of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, said that as Xi has emphasized in the letters, young people from the rest of the world are welcome to visit China to learn about the nation's development.
"Once they know what the real China looks like, they are very eager to share what they have seen and heard here with others," she said.
Donglona Adawa Thomas, who is from Chad and is a PhD candidate majoring in international politics at Peking University, participated in framing a letter to Xi in 2021.
"In his response, Xi encouraged us to study harder and travel around to learn more about Chinese culture. To implement what he has said in the letter, we have been given several opportunities to travel to other provincial-level regions, including Xinjiang," Thomas said.
He added that the field trips have deepened his knowledge of Chinese society and culture.
"It is crucial to strengthening people-to-people and cultural exchanges with other countries, as people live in a globalized and interconnected world, and the quintessence of relations among nations relies on such exchanges," Thomas said.