OPINIONS Peking University President Hao Ping's speech at the PKU opening ceremony 2021


Peking University President Hao Ping's speech at the PKU opening ceremony 2021

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12:19, September 13, 2021

Understanding China, Understanding the World; Understanding our Era, Understanding Ourselves

Welcome, fellow guests, teachers and students!

Today, at this grand opening ceremony, we have gathered here to witness a most important moment in your lives. You students all overcame the impact of the epidemic, studied diligently, achieved excellent results, and now have become Peking University's newest students. Here, on behalf of the university, I would like to extend my warm welcome and sincere congratulations to all of you!

PKU President Hao Ping delivers a keynote speech at the Peking University Opening Ceremony 2021 on Sept 10, 2021. (Photo: Peking University)

Today is also the 37th National Teacher's Day. All of you would not have come this long way without the hard work of your teachers. Here, then, let us extend our celebratory congratulations and heartfelt thanks to all the teachers and staff of the school and the teachers who have helped guide your growth!

This year, we celebrated the centenary of the Communist Party of China. On the eve prior to July 1, General Secretary Xi Jinping and members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee made a visit to the Red Building of Peking University. He spoke highly of the critical role Peking University played in the founding of the Communist Party of China. This was and will remain the pride and glory of Peking University. Dear students, once you step into Peking University, you will shoulder the responsibility and mission of our national prosperity and rejuvenation!

Arriving at PKU, you have to start with understanding China, learning our history, and strengthening your conviction.

The establishment of Peking University was the fruitful result of China's quest to seek national salvation in its recent modern history. After the Opium War, in 1840, China, with a rich civilization of more than 5,000 years, suffered a period of turmoil filled with unprecedented hardships. In this year's hit TV series "The Age of Awakening,” there was a scene that went like this: during a heavy snow storm, notable revolutionaries Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao witnessed countless famished civilians suffering in the cold. As they shed distressed, sorrowful tears, they made a pledge to establish the Communist Party. If you could have witnessed this moment, I believe that you students would have been deeply moved.

(Photo: Peking University)

Looking back, generations of PKUers are passing on the baton of history and writing new chapters in the book that documents the great rejuvenation of China.

Back when he was stationed at Lop Nor Base (in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region), Qian Shaojun, academician and alumnus of the School of Physics, lived in a temporary tent under harsh conditions. Qian recalled that in the cold winter, the temperature outside was 30 or 40 degrees below zero. Nevertheless, he continued to work in the Gobi desert for 25 years. For him, the grueling conditions were not worth mentioning, since the important thing was "to ensure that all collected data was secured for the sake of his motherland and the people."

Not long ago, Professor Lyu Zhi of the School of Life Sciences was awarded the Compassion Award, the largest public welfare award for global Chinese philanthropy. For more than 30 years, she has carried out field research work with extraordinary perseverance, and left her footprints in the mountains and forests of China, making important contributions to protecting China's endangered wildlife and biodiversity. "Patriotism doesn't need over-the-top rhetoric," she said. "It is up to us to protect it!"

On September 1, at the freshmen registration site, I came across a student volunteer who's from the Department of Clinical Medicine. This reminded me of the millennials who worked as members of Peking University's Medical Team during the Wuhan COVID-19 outbreak last year. They persevered through all dangers and made vital contributions to the fight against COVID-19 by standing at the front line of the intensive care unit day and night.

(Photo: Peking University)

"Educators shall focus not on the past nor the present, but the future." One hundred years ago, the founder of Peking University, Cai Yuanpei, left his educational philosophy as the legacy and founding principle of Peking University. It is the central work and fundamental mission of a university to educate and cultivate young people, and it must center its vision on the future of the nation and breed new hope for generations to come.

Dear students, in the new journey of the second centenary goal of building a modern and powerful socialist country in an all-round way, I hope that you, like generations of your predecessors at Peking University, will integrate study and research into the building of the country.

Coming to PKU, you must learn to understand the world, develop a global perspective, and promote cultural exchanges.

Currently, we are all living in a world that is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. Rapid changes, complex global issues and interdependence are important features of this great change. The opportunities brought by economic, scientific and technological progress around the world coexist with the challenges posed by the spread of the epidemic, climate change, natural disasters, unilateralism and regional turbulence. As a result, the global landscape is changing immensely.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, international exchanges and cooperation have been greatly affected, and many international students have had to attend the opening ceremony online. However, the greater the practical obstacles, the more the university should uphold the concept of openness and undertake the mission of promoting international exchanges and cooperation. In today's world, no country should be isolated. Different cultures must respect each other, stay united and cooperate with each other in times of difficulty.

It has always been PKU's responsibility to pay attention to and support the development of developing countries. Since its establishment five years ago, PKU's Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development has trained a remarkable number of senior management talents from over 50 countries. In July, President Xi Jinping personally sent a congratulatory letter, praising this institution for playing an important role in promoting South-South partnerships.

(Photo: Peking University)

High quality international academic exchanges are one of the characteristics and advantages of PKU. This semester, PKU offers more than 6,500 courses, including lectures and courses offered by more than 100 foreign experts from 25 countries. Many foreign experts have overcome obstacles during this special time and arrived at Peking University—including 82-year-old Professor John Hopcroft, a Turing prize winner and the founder of algorithms and data structure design and analysis, who will continue to teach the Turing class this semester. Professor Roger T. Ames, a famous philosopher who has long been engaged in comparative studies between China and the West, is now quarantined in Tianjin in accordance with the requirements of epidemic prevention and control. This semester, he will continue to teach the course "Comparison between Eastern and Western philosophy" for undergraduate students. Their wish is to promote the cooperation and exchange between outstanding youth of the world.

I sincerely hope you students will gain a global perspective, and learn to witness and interpret harmony in diversity, the drastically different and complex world we live in.

During your studies, learn to enrich your own knowledge, soak in all the intellectual resources formed during the progress of human civilization, try to provide answers to areas of China's development, as well as building conversations regarding Chinese wisdom and history during international exchanges in order to make a contribution to building a shared future for mankind.

At PKU, you have to understand the times we live in and develop your creativity and adaptability especially since technology is developing rapidly.

At present, we are in the process of the fourth industrial revolution, which is characterized by digitalization, AI and low-carbon lifestyle changes, and science and technology are advancing with each passing day.

These massive changes have also impacted our campus: higher education has faced a historical shift and there have been changes in education and research paradigms. The integration of online and offline lessons and the digitalization of certain aspects of education has opened up the borders of the campus while breaking the boundaries of space and time, as well as incorporating an increased level of digitalization in education. Before all of you arrived in PKU, you submitted your health reports to the school via online methods while our graduate students attended online interviews. After arriving in campus, everyone registered for a digital campus card and a NFC campus card; from now on, one phone is all you need to explore this smart campus.

Dear students, technological change in the post-pandemic era will accelerate. This puts forth higher requirements for the complexity of your knowledge and the creativity of your thinking. How to build a knowledge system that meets the requirements of the times and explore one's own learning path is a new challenge for you students.

Renowned aesthetician Ye Lang said the following about PKU's academic atmosphere. "No matter an old scholar or a young student, everyone possesses a strong thirst for knowledge, passion for knowledge and pursuit of knowledge. With this outlook on life and values, they see academic research as their spiritual pillar and the core of their lives and regard learning as their own life."

Ever since returning to Peking University, Professor Peng Lianmao at the PKU School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science has been involved in the research of nano new materials and has achieved ground-breaking results. Professor Peng has always believed that "the boundaries between disciplines are arbitrary, but natural patterns cannot be confined according to man-made disciplinary differences. Our mindsets should not be constrained by these artificial boundaries!"

Dear students, your respective disciplines are not barriers to limit your knowledge; in fact, it's a solid academic platform for you to stand on and look ahead. All of you should remain steadfast in your passion for your respective disciplines while also expanding your knowledge beyond what you were taught. PKU will offer you a diverse and inter-disciplinary academic haven for all of you to explore the unknown and stimulate your thoughts.

At PKU, all of you should also understand yourself in order to progress and grow in this new environment.

Professor Liu Ruochuan, from the School of Mathematical Sciences, who delivered the opening speech earlier, is a recipient of the 16th China Youth Science and Technology Award. Professor Liu always tells his students that life is never linear; in fact it resembles a parabola with its peaks and troughs. As long as you have the ability and persevere while improving yourself, you will encounter opportunities.

To understand yourself is to work hard to perfect yourself. Professor Liu Zhongfan, from the College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering, has always been invested in graphene research and performed a series of experiments which achieved ground-breaking results. He has a mentality of "not setting ceilings for yourself" and believes that "everyone has their own potential, so don't say no easily. As long as you think hard enough and dare to put things into practice, you will discover a different version of yourself."

To understand yourself is to reach an accurate self-understanding and maintain a rational and calm attitude. A wise man is one who knows others, while a bright man is one who knows himself. All of you have proven to be outstanding students amongst your peers, and since fate has brought you to PKU, grades are now no longer the only benchmark of success. You can only explore your path ahead when you have formed an accurate understanding of yourself.

To understand oneself also means developing oneself comprehensively, in all four dimensions—morally, intellectually, physically, and artistically. The maxims "Becoming a fully developed human being begins with training one's body" and "Be virtuous and talented, with a sound body and soul" encapsulate Peking University's philosophy of educating people. On September 6, nearly 4,000 undergraduate freshmen participated in the First Run of school, kicking off their physical exercise program. Cultivating a sound personality, noble qualities, and a healthy body and mind will be an important task for everyone at PKU. What students should gain at Peking University is not only knowledge, but also a healthy body, as well as a pragmatic and truthful spirit, courage to overcome difficulties, perseverance, meticulous dialectical thinking, and an optimistic and open-minded mentality. These characteristics will determine the pattern of your life and your potential for development.

To understand oneself, you must find an intimate connection between yourself, your country, your people, your world and your times. You have to "realize yourself while benefiting others". This summer, Henan Province and other localities were hit hard with heavy rains. The school immediately provided help to local students, and many students actively participated in rescue work, which was an expression of the concern and responsibility of Peking University. I hope that each of you will be a new person for the era who will be beneficial to others and the country, and in so doing, become a better person in the process.

(Photo: Peking University)

My Dear Students,

Professor Xie Mian of PKU's Department of Chinese Language and Literature once said, "From the first day you set foot on this campus, your future will be closely linked to it."

During your upcoming life at PKU, you will attend wide range of academic lectures, immerse yourself in the rich scholarly fragrance of the century-old library, and have long conversations with masters of their fields. Your days should be spent diligently, inculcating yourself with good values and becoming a discerning and conscientious student. I sincerely hope all of you will become young people of Peking University in the new era who are "patriotic, inspirational, truth-seeking, and dedicated,” meeting the ardent expectations of the Party and the people!

At last, I wish you all the best.

Thank you everyone!

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