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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Below is the complete text of Chinese President Jiang Zemin's address on Saturday in Sanders Theatre, as transcribed by The Crimson. The bracketed portions represent parts of the prepared text of Jiang's speech which were not delivered or were inaudible, or minor stylistic changes.
Building Trust, Cooperation
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank Dr. Neil [L.] Rudenstine, president of Harvard University, for inviting me to this ancient yet modernized institution of the United States in this golden fall.
Since its founding some 360 years ago, Harvard has nurtured a great number of outstanding [government leaders], scientists, writers and [business leaders], including six of the American presidents and over 30 Nobel Prize winners. The fact that Harvard was founded before the United States of America testifies to its position in American history.
Harvard is among the first American universities to accept Chinese students. The Chinese educational, scientific and cultural communities have all along maintained academic exchanges with this university. Harvard has thus made useful contribution to the enhanced mutual understanding between the Chinese and American peoples.
Mutual understanding is the basis for state-to-state relations. Without it, it would be impossible for countries to build trust and promote cooperation with each other. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the United States, the exchanges and mutual understanding between our two peoples have broadened and deepened steadily. However, this is not enough. To promote the development of China-U.S. relations, China needs to know the United States better, and vice versa.
To know China better, one may approach it from different angles. China today has been evolved from its past. China is a country with 5,000 years of civilization. Therefore, it is important to approach China from a historical and cultural perspective.
A 5,000-Year Civilization
I recall my first lessons on calculus in senior high school. My teacher quoted a line from Zhuang Zi, Chinese philosopher over 2,000 years ago, which reads, "Cut away half of a rod and keep on halving what is left, and there will be no end to that process." This gave me a vivid concept of limit. It shows that the ancient Chinese realized the endless process of changes of matters and had a fairly good understanding of the nature. As early as in 2,500 B.C., Chinese began astronomical observation and geographical survey, and gradually formed a world outlook of an "integration of the universe and humanity." China produced in its long history many outstanding philosophers, thinkers, [government leaders], strategists, scientists, writers and artists, and left us numerous volumes of literature. The scene of "contention of a hundred schools of thought" brought forth the Spring and Autumn Period 2,500 years ago and the Warring States Period over 2,200 years ago and the emergence of various schools of thought and their exponents, such as Lao-tzu and Confucius, about 2,400 years ago. All occupy a very important position in the world history of philosophy.
Ancient China made unique contributions to many areas of science, including astronomy, calendric system, geography, mathematics, agriculture, medicine and the humanities. Records of solar and lunar eclipses are found in the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty over 3,000 years ago. In the 2,100 years from the Qin Dynasty to the late Qing Dynasty (that is, from 221 B.C. to 1911), the 27 appearances of Halley's Comet were all recorded in China. Zhang Heng, of the Han Dynasty, invented a seismograph to determine the location of earthquakes, and the celestial globe that showed the movement of the sun, moon and other stars. Mathematicians in the pre-Qin days put forward the proposition known as the Pythagorean theorem in the West today. In the Northern and Southern Dynasties in the 4th century A.D., China's mathematician Zu Chongzhi calculated the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter to be 3.1415926. China's silk-weaving, porcelain-making, metallurgy and ship-building reached the world's best level in ancient times. In the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Zaiyu initiated the 12-tone temperament, which later became the universal standard tones. Chinese medicine is a unique school of its own. China's four great inventions of paper-making, gun-powder, printing and [the] compass [...] changed the face of the world. These inventions and creations of China have brought forward the rationalistic brilliance of coordination between humanity and [...] nature, and the integration of scientific spirit with moral ideals.
Chinese culture in history has never stopped developing. It has enriched itself through the contention and infiltration of various disciplines and schools of thought, and also through the mutual exchanges and learning between China and other countries in the world. Since old times, the Chinese people came to know full well the importance of "drawing widely upon others' strong points to improve oneself." The Han and Tang dynasties were both an age of economic prosperity and also one of flourishing international exchanges. Imperial envoy Zhang Qian's trip to the "West" in the Han Dynasty, over 2,000 years ago, opened up the world-famous Silk Road; Eminent Monk Xuan Zang, of the Tang Dynasty, brought back ancient culture after braving the long journey to South Asian countries. In the Ming Dynasty, Chinese navigator Cheng Ho led a fleet to what the people then called the "West Sea" seven times in the 15th century, spreading the Chinese culture to distant land. Only later on, especially in the late Qing Dynasty, [did] the feudal rulers adopt [...] a policy of seclusion, which hampered China's progress and its exchanges with the outside world. After the Opium War, generation after generation of enlightened Chinese people have spared no efforts in learning from Western countries advanced science and cultural achievements in combination with China's realities and pushing for China's social reforms and development. Today, the Chinese people who are struggling to achieve modernization have made the opening-up a basic state policy and conducted extensive exchanges and cooperation with the rest of the world, thus creating a brand-new situation in its opening-up endeavor in the Chinese history.
Unique Cultural Heritage
Sunlight is composed of seven colors; so is our world full of colors and splendor. Each country and every nation has its own historical and cultural traditions, strong points and advantages. We should respect and learn from each other and draw upon others' strong points to offset one's own deficiencies for achieving common progress.
In the prolonged course of development, China has formed its fine historical and cultural traditions, which have been either developed or discarded with the changes of the times and social progress. These traditions have exerted a profound impact on the values and way of life of the Chinese people, and on China's road of development today. I would like to make the following observations, to help you understand China better.
First, the tradition of solidarity and unity. The Chinese nation is a big family composed of 56 nationalities. Since time immemorial, people of all nationalities have established closely-knitted political, economic and cultural links and joined hands in developing the vast land of our country. China became [a] vast unified country more than 2,000 years ago. The deep-rooted Chinese culture has become a strong bond for ethnic harmony and national unity. Solidarity and unity have been inscribed in the hearts of the Chinese people as part of their national identity. Despite occasional division in [...] Chinese history, ethnic harmony and national unity have remained the mainstream in the history of the Chinese nation, and an important guarantee for China's development and progress. The founding of the People's Republic marked an unprecedented great unity of the Chinese nation. A new type of relationship of equality, solidarity and mutual assistance between different nationalities has been established. People of all nationalities enjoy full rights and freedoms provided for by the law. In places where there is a high concentration of minority-nationality people, regional autonomy is in practice. All these have laid a solid political foundation for consolidated national unity.
Second, the tradition of maintaining independence. Our ancestors always regarded the spirit of maintaining independence as the foundation of a nation. China has all along maintained its cultural tradition without letup in the history of several thousand years. In modern times, the frequent bullying and humiliation by imperialist powers once weakened China. However, after 100 years of struggle, China has stood up again as a giant. This fully testifies to the indestructible strength of the spirit of the Chinese people. Today, in finding a road to development suited to us, we will proceed from our own national conditions to address the issue of how to conduct economic construction and political and cultural advancement without blindly copying other countries' models. In handling international affairs, we decide our positions and policies from an independent approach. The Chinese people cherish its friendship and cooperation with other countries, as well as their right to independence they have won through protracted struggles.
Peace and Self-Perfection
Third, the peace-loving tradition. Chinese thinkers of the pre-Qin days advanced the doctrine "loving people and treating neighbors kindly are most valuable to a country." This is a reflection of the aspiration of the Chinese people for a peaceful world where people of all countries live in harmony. Today, the Chinese people who are committed to modernization need more than ever a long-term international environment of peace. China's foreign policy is peace-oriented. We will establish and develop friendly relations and cooperation with all countries in the world on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, especially the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. We will never impose upon others the kind of sufferings we once experienced. A developing and progressing China does not pose a threat to anyone. China will never seek hegemony, even if it is developed in the future. It is always a staunch force for world peace and regional stability.
Fourth, the tradition of constantly striving for self-perfection. Ancient Chinese philosophers proposed the following doctrine, "As Heaven maintains vigor through movement, a gentleman should constantly strive for self-perfection." This idea has become an important moral strength, spurring the Chinese people to work hard for reform and renovation. The fruits of ancient Chinese civilization were brought about by the tireless efforts and hard work of the Chinese nation. In the past hundred years or so, the Chinese people have waged arduous struggles to get rid of the sufferings under semi-colonial and semi-feudal rule. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, China's forerunner of the democratic revolution, was the first to put forward the slogan of "rejuvenation of China." He led the Revolution of 1911 to remove the millennia-old autocratic monarchy in China. Under the guidance of Mao Zedong Thought, the Chinese Communist Party led the Chinese people in achieving national independence and people's liberation and in building China into a socialist country with initial prosperity. Today, guided by Deng Xiaoping theory, the Chinese people are firmly pressing ahead with reform and opening-up and have made remarkable achievements in the modernization drive. China has entered a period with the fastest and healthiest development in this century.
Modernization and Reform
The reform and opening-up endeavor is an embodiment and a creative development of the Chinese spirit of constantly striving for self-perfection and renovation in modern times. We refer to our reform and opening-up as socialist reform and opening-up, because they constitute the process of self-improvement and development of the socialist system in China. The practice in [the last] 20 years has eloquently proved rather that we are right in direction, firm in conviction, steady in our steps and gradual in our approach when carrying out the reform and opening-up, and we have achieved tremendous successes. We have successfully overcome various difficulties and risks in the course of our advance without causing great social unrest. Rather, we have succeeded in greatly releasing and developing productive forces and maintained social stability and an all-round progress.
We are conducting a comprehensive reform with full confidence. Economically, we will speed up the establishment of a socialist market economy and realize industrialization, and the socialization, marketization and modernization of the economy. Politically, we will endeavor to develop socialist democracy, govern the country according to law, build a socialist country under the rule of law, and ensure the full exercise of people's rights to govern the country and manage social affairs. Culturally, we will work hard to develop a scientific socialist culture for the people, a culture that is geared to the needs of modernization, of the nation, of the world and of the future, adopt a strategy of rejuvenating China through science and education and strive to raise the political and moral standards, as well as the scientific and cultural level, of the entire nation. In a word, it is to build China into a prosperous, strong, democratic and culturally advanced modern China.
China, a country with vast territory, a big population and a long history, should make greater contribution to humanity. The Chinese people waged a dauntless struggle for one hundred years. They have effected great reforms and changes, one after another, to build the country into a strong and prosperous country. They have worked to strengthen ethnic harmony and achieve national reunification and to promote the lofty cause of world peace and development. In the final analysis, they have done all [this] for one objective, that is, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and China's greater contribution to humanity.
'Reality and History'
In short, the choice of the social system and development path that China has made, the domestic and foreign policies that it has pursued and the goals it has identified for the next century, are all based on both [...] reality and the history. Therefore, they are not only in conformity with the trend of the historical development of [humanity] and that of the times, but also reflect the characteristics of the Chinese nation. They serve not only the fundamental interests of the Chinese people, but also world peace, stability, prosperity and progress. This is the key to an understanding of the present-day China and its future.
[Jiang begins speaking in English]
Ladies and gentlemen, the friendly exchange between the Chinese and American peoples dates back [...] more than two hundred years [...]. Back in 1784, [the] American merchant ship the "Empress of China" came a long way to China. In 1847, Chinese student Rong Hong [with others] came to the United States as the first group of Chinese students to study here. Many Chinese contributed to the nation-building of the United States, while a lot of American friends helped and supported the national liberation cause of the Chinese people. We will never forget their contribution, which has touched us deeply.
The Chinese people have always admired the American people for their pragmatic attitude and creative spirit. My visit to IBM, AT&T and the Bell Laboratory yesterday gave me some first-hand knowledge of the latest successes in modern science and technology. Today's rapid development in science and technology is bringing about increasingly greater impact[s] on global political and economic patterns and on people's social life. If we persist in our reform, we will be able to turn our ideals into reality. In our cause to further open up and achieve modernization, we have spared no efforts in learning from all the fine cultural achievements of the American people.
Stability, Emerging Markets
Friendship and cooperation between our two peoples are of great importance to the world. The United States is the most developed country, and China the largest developing country. China is a country with 1.2 billion people. Its stability and rapid development in of vital importance to the stability and development in Asia-Pacific and the world at large. China holds a huge market and great demand for development, and the United States holds advanced science and technology, as well as enormous material force. The economies of the two countries are therefore highly complementary with each other. China's potential market, once combined with foreign advanced technology and capital, will produce many opportunities and great vigor for development. China and the United States share broad common interests and shoulder common responsibility on many important questions which are crucial to human survival and development, such as maintaining world peace and security, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, protecting the environment for human survival and combating the international crimes. All these provide an important basis for further developing China-U.S. friendly relations and cooperation. We should take a firm hold of the overall interests of China-U.S. relations and settle our differences properly, so as to reach the goal of promoting mutual understanding, broadening common ground, developing global cooperation and building a future together.
During my current visit to the United States, I had a deep exchange of views and reached broad agreement with President Clinton on the future development of China-U.S. relations. We both agree that with a view to promoting the lofty cause of world peace and development, China and the United States should strengthen cooperation and work hard to build a constructive strategic partnership oriented towards the 21st century. This will mark a new stage of development in the China-U.S. relations.
Harvard's China Studies
Harvard University has all along placed importance on China studies. When I come here, I remember when I was minister of electronic industrial ministry. Fourteen years ago, I was here [for the] first time. The late Professor [John King] Fairbank ['29] was a well-known scholar from Harvard. He devoted all his life to the study of Chinese history and culture. In order to promote the study of China's past and present, I will present Harvard with a set of newly published Twenty-Four Histories With Mao Zedong's Comments. Twenty-Four Histories are important classic works on China's history of several thousand years. In his lifetime, Mao Zedong made numerous comments and annotations on the Twenty-Four Histories, thus leaving us with a rich heritage of philosophy in understanding and in drawing useful lessons from China's history.
I am glad to learn that you, Mr.President, will come to China next year. I look forward to meeting you again in Beijing--or Shanghai.
I highly appreciate the motto on the gates of your university. It reads, "Enter to grow in wisdom" and "Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind." Young people in China have also a motto; that is: "Keep the motherland in heart and serve the people with heart and soul." I hope that in the cause of building our own countries and promoting world peace and development, younger generations of China and the United States will understand each other better, learn from each other, enhance the friendship and strive for a better future.
Thank you very much for your attention.
[Question No. 1: Submitted by the Joint Committee for Protesting Jiang Zemin's visit to Harvard]
Q: Jiang Zemin asked the West not to engage in confrontation but dialogue. However, why does he refuse dialogue with his own people? Why did the Chinese government order tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 and confront the Chinese people?
A: In China there are various channels for us to learn about people's views. For instance, when I was the mayor of Shanghai, I [had] frequent contact with the people's deputies there, and after I went to work with the Party's Central Committee, I have been to almost all [of] the 30 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of China.
China is a large country, with different levels of development in different parts of the country, and therefore, in some places in China I've been there even more than three times. I've been to many grassroots units in China's countryside, in the cities, and in the factories and have had extensive contacts with people from different walks of life, and therefore, the people are very satisfied with achievements we have scored under the reform and opening-up program of China, and the policy of the government is to serve the people. Therefore, we have to reflect the people's requests and do everything that will meet the people's requests. And also, as a result of our effort along that line, we have enjoyed the support from our people. It goes without saying that, naturally, we may have shortcomings and even make some mistakes in our work. However, we have been working on a constant basis to further improve our work."
The 14th Dalai Lama
[Question No.2: Submitted by fifth-year graduate student Eric D.Mortensen, regarding Tibet.]
Q: You said before you would not meet with the Dalai Lama if independence was addressed. Given that the Dalai Lama has now said he's willing to meet you without discussing independence, why, therefore, do you still refuse to meet with him?
A: Our policy toward the fourteenth Dalai Lama is a very clear-cut one, and you also referred to part of it in raising your question. That is, he must recognize publicly that Tibet is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China; that he must state publicly to give up Tibet [an] independence and that he must stop all activities aimed at splitting the motherland. However, much to my regret, up until this date, the fourteenth Dalai Lama has not stopped his separatist activities."
Fairbank Center for East Asian Research Director Ezra F.Vogel: President Jiang Zemin has also said that, although this has been unannounced, he is willing to take a question from the audience. This is completely unrehearsed, and I hope that some of you will think of a question. Can I call upon somebody in the audience here who would like to raise a question? President Jiang Zemin has said that he would like to hear, first of all, from an American, and so--[audience unrest is audible]. This is for an American audience--Yes, this woman right here. This woman--I did not recognize you, would you please sit down. I did not recognize you. I recognized this lady here. Well...-- OK, please go ahead.
[Question No. 3: This question, asked by Carroll Bogert '83, an international correspondent based in New York for Newsweek magazine, was inaudible in the broadcast. However, in an interview with The Crimson last night, Bogert said she asked Jiang: "Your protests have dogged your footsteps throughout this visit and you yourself have talked about the noise coming to your ears. What do you think about these protests? Do you think Americans are impolite people, or do you think this is a natural expression of democracy?"]
[Audience responds with laughter and applause to President Jiang Zemin's spoken response, and then the English translation is heard.]
A: I do have my understanding about the -- I do have my understanding about the general concept of democracy. However, during my current trip to the United States, starting from Hawaii, I felt more specific understanding of the American democracy, more specific than I learned from books.
[More laughter and applause from the audience greet both this response and the following remarks.]
Although I am already 71 years old, my ears still work very well, so when I was delivering my speech, I did hear the sound from the loudspeakers outside. However, I believe the only approach for me is to speak even louder than it.
Professor Vogel: When Ambassador Sasser was on the way, he said to me that just before arriving at Harvard, that President Jiang confessed to him that he felt like he was coming to a big examination at Harvard. I think we can say that he happily passed his examination, and we appreciate very much his willingness to come to Harvard. We see this as one step in continued dialogue which we hope will go on for many, many years, and forever.
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