Wǒmen | 2019 Yenching Global Symposium Opens, Highlights Women’s Diverse China Stories

BEIJING, CHINA, March 29, 2019—The 4th annual Yenching Global Symposium has officially opened at the Yenching Academy of Peking University, with an opening ceremony full of compelling speeches, performances, and multimedia displays.

 

The Yenching Global Symposium was initiated and organized by students of Yenching Academy of Peking University. Nearly 200 outstanding youth representatives from 60 different countries, Yenching Academy alumni, and experts and scholars from different fields gathered to celebrate this year's theme, Wǒmen: Retelling the China Stories. The theme encourages in-depth dialogue through lectures, seminars, and other interactive exchanges that highlight the less-often told China stories: those of, by, and involving women. This gendered lens is employed alongside a global perspective that explores women's roles and strengths in promoting China's development, while facilitating dialogue among young leaders in various countries and sectors.

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Paper fans flutter and cloth sails through the air. The opening ceremony began with the melodious dance of the Peking University Dance Team called "The Paper Fan Scholar.” The scholars in the dance are not only men, but also women: they take centre stage, harnessing the beauty of the paper fan and graceful movement of the body. The 2019 Yenching Global Symposium welcomes young scholars and experts from all over the world to gather in China to discuss China today through a gendered lens, and the possibilities these topics hold for the future of China and the world.

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Following the dance, audience members learned about 2019 YGS and the organization of the forum through an original video showcasing past and present organizers, delegates, and the Yenching Academy leadership. Zoe Jordan, 2018 Yenching Scholar from the United States and Co-Chair of the forum, then shared her insights on the preparation of the forum and the impetus behind this year's theme. She believes that in today's international arena, although there are many well-known “China stories,” these are mostly based on mainstream narratives on China's history, ancient monuments, traditional culture and rising political and economic status. There are many more China stories than that: they are richer and more nuanced, and hold extensive implications that require us to observe, experience, and think. While the Symposium focuses on a gendered perspective, it does not presuppose any conclusions. On the contrary, it is a tool for us to better understand the stories of contemporary China.

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Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy, expressed her warm welcome and relayed congratulations to the delegates who successfully completed the intensive screening process to attend YGS. Through a brief review of the past three symposia and of the development of the Yenching Academy, Dean Yuan Ming shared the original intention of the Academy: a home for young scholars from around the world who are interested in China studies today. The Academy provides both freedom and support to help them find their intellectual and professional path, so as to better build a bridge between China and the world. 

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Dean Yuan Ming also shared her personal connection to this year's theme, through the story of her grandmother. Yuan's grandmother was born in the late Qing Dynasty to a traditional family, where she was not permitted to seek a contemporary education. With the help of her mother, she left home and gave up her life in the family to study at a foreign-run school in a coastal city two days' walk away. “Having left home alone, my grandmother could not afford the tuition,” Yuan recounted. “Instead, my grandmother agreed to braid the hair of the principal's daughter every day for three years, until she eventually completed her studies.” Yuan's grandmother became a key role model for her and a source of inspiration through her years of study.

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The keynote address was given by Liu Xin, the host of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) weekday opinion show, The Point with Liu Xin. She told audience members about her career as a journalist and public figure. From CCTV to CGTN and from Beijing to Geneva, she continued to learn how to think critically and ask questions, all the while striving to facilitate dialogue between international and Chinese opinions. She also discussed the challenges currently facing traditional media, emphasizing the importance of authenticity and objectivity in projecting Chinese narratives. In closing, Liu contrasted her experience as a woman in journalism with the challenges faced by some women in rural China.

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Audience members left the opening ceremony with a deeper understanding of gender in China, with delegates, speakers, Yenching Scholars, and guests sharing a strong connection. The Symposium will run until Sunday afternoon, and will feature a number of speeches and panel discussions on three sub-topics: economics and development, politics and law, and society and culture, all rotating around the theme of Wǒmen: Retelling the China Stories. These will be accompanied by cultural workshops and field research activities that help delegates immerse themselves in the rich societal fabric of Beijing.

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By Andreas Kyriakos and Miao Xu

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