On the morning of September 14, 2018, the 4th Annual Opening Ceremony of Yenching Academy commenced at Peking University’s Qiulin auditorium to welcome the newest scholars of 2018 cohort and kickoff the beginning of the new academic year.
The start of the program opened with the lyrical and soothing songs played by musicians on traditional Chinese instruments. Following the mesmerizing performances, Aliza Warwick of the 3rd cohort imparted some advice for the new scholars. She encouraged them to try new things, take new risks, build a community and get outside of one’s comfort zone.
Present at the Opening Ceremony included many esteemed guests, including Ambassador Antonis Toumazis from the Republic of Cyprus, Ambassador Eoin O'Leary from the Republic of Ireland, Ambassador Dolana Msimang from the Republic of South Africa, Ambassador Jean-Jacques de Dardel from Swiss Confederation, Ambassador Stephen Seedansingh Jr. from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and senior officers from the Embassy of Colombia, Germany, Greece, Japan, India, Myanmar, Poland, Singapore, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The honorable guests also include Professor He Yafei, Distinguished Professor of the Yenching Academy and Former Duputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of China; Professor Zhu Min, Chair of the National Institute of Financial Research, Tsinghua University; Professor Wang Yuan, Former Chief Economist of the China Development Bank Corporation; Professor John Holden, CEO of the US-China Strong Foundation; Professor Wang Bo, Vice President of Peking University and of course the beloved Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of Yenching Academy.
Following Aliza’s warm welcome, Vice President Wang Bo began by explaining the history of Yenching Academy within the context of Peking University, likening the young program to a newborn that has, since its inception, become a highly regarded fellowship. He emphasized the prestige of Peking University and named several famous alumni of the institution, including the likes of Premier Li Keqiang among others. He welcomed the 2018 Yenching Scholars from 38 countries and regions. To experience the campus, he advised the new scholars to stroll by the famous Weiming Lake, and make good use of their time at Beida.
Presenting next was the teacher representative for Yenching Academy, Professor Xie Yu, Director of the Center for Social Research, Peking University and a professor at Princeton University. To the new scholars in the audience, Professor Xie Yu dispensed three observations and pieces of advice: First, throw away your assumptions, start fresh and keep an open mind. Second, Everyone will inevitably encounter challenges, so learn from local Chinese people to overcome those difficulties. Third, heterogeneity: China is not a single entity and things in China are diverse.
To show appreciation and gratitude for all professors of Yenching Academy and Peking University, 3rd cohort scholar Livia Machado from Brazil along with Aliza Warwick presented a bouquet of fresh flowers to Professor Xie Yu, who received the gift on behalf of all the teachers.
A new component of this year’s Opening Ceremony included a speech by a Student Representative from the newest cohort, Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph, who remarked on three characteristics – Resilience, Community, and Curiosity – that he thought would be important to uphold during this next year in Beijing. He said, “Gratitude will keep us hungry and grounded. I am a Nigerian and, in my culture, the glory of every accolade you receive from the day you are born till the day you leave the world, belongs to your parents, who of course use those accolades to brag about you. I hope you can all take great pride in making those who have nurtured and watched you grow proud, today and always.”
After Ekezie-Joseph imparted his wish, a surprise message was displayed on the big screen. From parents to academic advisors, from friends to immediate and extended family, close members of the newest scholars poured their love, pride, and words of support and encouragement from all across the world into a heartwarming video for the entire Yenching class of 2018.
Following such an uplifting video, Dean Yuan Ming of Yenching Academy emphasized the importance of building a good network and how that has enabled her to meet so many of the wonderful people in her life, including the next speaker, Professor Zhu Min.
With that introduction, Prof. Zhu Min stepped onstage and delivered a riveting presentation on “An Interconnected World” and what it means to live in such a world. He described two points: Hyper-connectivity and Co-movements and spillovers, using powerful and dynamic graphics to illustrate the interconnectedness of countries. Prof. Zhu explained how location and size of a country is not as important as the economies and financial strengths of such countries. He explained how a natural disaster like an earthquake could have negative cascade effects on the entire market and other economies. Thus, living in such an interconnected world, Prof. Zhu concluded why it is important for countries to not only define and differentiate their strengths, but also understand one’s cluster and how one links to the world.
Such visual and quantitative proof provides only the more reason for why the continuation and growth of international programs like the Yenching Academy is so crucial for the future of our world. After this edifying presentation, the 4th Opening Ceremony of Yenching Academy wrapped up with a bang, as dancers disguised as Chinese lions leaped around the auditorium, displaying a final warm welcome to the new scholars and audience for a successful and meaningful year at Yenching Academy.
by Jennifer Jia-Hong Liu