Speech by Professor Zhang Qingmin at the 2019 Graduation Ceremony of Yenching Academy

The Value of Having a Degree in China Studies



Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at this commencement ceremony. As Mencius once said that it is one of the three pleasures to educate the world's talented people. I had the pleasure and honor to teach the best students from the best universities around the globe to study China at the best university in China. Your pleasant faces give me strong job satisfaction because I realized the value of being an educator. I want to congratulate the Yenching Academy and my colleagues at Yenching for having another cohort of excellent graduates!



With a MA degree in China Studies, you are expected to be China experts. I want to ask what did you learn about China in the past two years? I am sure you will have different answers because this nation is big in size, long in history, diverse in culture, and has multiple faces and attributes. You may have got different impressions of China: an Ancient China, a modern China; an urban China, a rural China; a coast China, an inner China; a China in classes and books, and a China you saw and experienced personally. Let me caution you by what John King Fairbank once said: there is no China expert, only China specialist. You are China specialist, specialized in Chinese history and culture, economics and law, and politics and international relations.


If you say that you know China very well with a MA degree in China Studies, I will not believe you. We did not teach you so much in two years! But if you say that you have been inspired now than when you started, even got more confused, that means you have learned. The less you know the more confident you are about what you know; the more you know, you'll know how little you've known. This program is not to offer all knowledge about China because it is simply impossible. It is to raise new puzzles by solving old puzzles and more importantly to arouse your interest in China. To study China is a life long endeavor and a MA degree in China Studies indicates you were once interested in China. If such interest keeps growing and becomes insatiable, you will continue to learn and in the end you'll have a better understanding of China. Only then will the value of a MA degree in China Studies be realized.



A MA degree in China Studies also demonstrates that we have established connections or guanxi between us, which is treasured highly in Chinese culture. By looking beyond this moment into the future I see the value of this guanxi: You are going to different places to realize your dreams, and you will bring such guanxi to wherever you go. It will continue to shape our program, shape your countries' relations with China, shape China's relation with the world for those Chinese students, and shape the future of the world, hopefully cooperatively, but we should not be surprised if it happens in a competitive way. Whatever ways, I hope the guanxi you've established here will grow and prosper, and will be transformed into bonds that enhance mutual understanding, promote peace,and drive our shared pursuit of the many forms of human greatness.


You are embarking on a new journey. This is not a farewell ceremony, but a commencement. I do not mean to teach you another session, I come here to congratulate you. I extend my warmest congratulations to you, to your parents, to your lovers, and to many others who have stood behind you. You have never been alone and you won't be alone in the future. So you should always keep the world in mind. We'll always be looking forward to good news from you. It is your success in the future rather than our teaching or your GPA in class that will prove the success of our program. Wherever you go and whatever you do I wish the very best for your future. Thank you.



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