Yenching Academy Holds the 2023 Yenching Global Symposium

On April 15, 2023, the 7th Yenching Global Symposium (YGS) officially commenced in Lingshui, Hainan Province. Since its establishment in 2016 as one of the most influential youth forums on China-related topics, the Yenching Global Symposium has successfully organized seven symposia. The forum is initiated and organized by students from Yenching Academy of Peking University, aiming to empower young leaders, showcase China's transformation and development, listen to world-renowned speakers, and provide a platform for professionals and young scholars to engage in interdisciplinary dialogues on China-related themes from diverse perspectives.


In today's world, humanity faces numerous complex and intertwined problems, calling for constructive dialogues that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries. The 2023 Yenching Global Symposium chose the theme "互manity, Cartographies of Collaboration", enabling young leaders to gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of global challenges and opportunities. Delegates charted a new blueprint for Sino-foreign exchanges and cooperation. YGS 2023 returned to a synchronous onsite and online event after previous online conferences due to the pandemic, attracting 278 outstanding young representatives from 55 countries and regions worldwide, who gathered with experts, leaders, and practitioners from various fields, engaged in in-depth dialogues, and discussed global issues and opportunities.

Hong Kai Tan, co-Chair of the 7th Yenching Global Symposium and a Yenching Academy Scholar from Singapore, presided over the opening ceremony. In the face of increasing instability and uncertainty in the world and the complexities of the international environment, he quoted a line from the Dao De Jing: “What is difficult in the world is done through what is easy; what is great in the world is done through what is small.” He expressed his hope that the forum could provide a platform for young leaders to bond and jointly explore China and the world in the era of transformation.

Cai Zhaohui, Deputy Governor of Hainan Province, warmly welcomed the guests on behalf of the People's Government of Hainan Province and extended sincere wishes for the success of the forum. He mentioned that since establishing the Hainan Free Trade Zone, Hainan Province has made remarkable achievements in exploring and advancing the construction of a Free Trade Port with Chinese characteristics. Cai highlighted the youth’s role in building a better world, noting that young people would be the new force of vitality for an open, inclusive, clean, beautiful, peaceful, and prosperous human future.

Vice President of Peking University Sun Qingwei expressed sincere gratitude on behalf of Peking University to the Hainan Provincial Government for their strong support for the event. He reviewed the origin of the Yenching Global Symposium, affirming the positive explorations made by students from a cross-cultural, people-to-people, and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the relationship between China and the world.

In her speech, Cao Xiankun, Secretary of the Party Committee of the Hainan Provincial Department of Education and Director of the Administration Bureau of the Hainan Li’an International Education Innovation Pilot Zone, welcomed everyone to Lingshui. The Li’an International Education Park is crucial for constructing Hainan’s international education innovation. Since its establishment in 2020, the park has been committed to promoting openness in education as its core mission, striving to create a new highland for educational reform and innovation in China and an important platform for international educational exchange and mutual learning.

Finally, Dong Qiang, Dean of Yenching Academy, delivered a speech. He reviewed the themes of the Yenching Global Symposium since 2016. He sincerely expressed that Hainan will allow international students to better understand the depth of China's reform and opening-up, adding that through this symposium, they will disseminate Hainan’s current development status and future prospects to the world.

The conference discussions began following the opening ceremony. Throughout the first day, emerging young leaders and expert speakers from across the world joined thought-provoking panel discussions covering topics such as international relations, the global economy, philosophy, film, inequality, and sustainability. The following day, experts in several fields, including technology, literature, and art, talked about the cross-cultural connections between Eastern and Western civilizations and the great wisdom that history and philosophy provide for contemporary life. The first two days of panel discussions featured notable speakers, including Cheng Yonghua, Moon Chung-in, Branko Milanović, Peter Katzenstein, Wu Wenguang, and Gao Xiqing.

While two days of panel discussions gave delegates the latest insights and ideas powering current research, site visits were organized on the third day to provide delegates a window into how those emerging ideas and technologies are applied. Visiting the Yangpu Economic Development Zone and Jiahe Shared Farm gave delegates a sense of Hainan’s vibrant economic and cultural landscapes.

“One of the wonderful opportunities I’m having at this conference is meeting students from all around the world and around China who are just so passionate about helping their societies and helping their communities,” said Sreya, a Schwarzman scholar from Tsinghua University.

Brian Li, former Academic and Personal Development Coach at Harvard Summer School, said that as a higher education practitioner, he was amazed by the richness of topics covered in the symposium and the depth of the intellectually stimulating conversations our speakers and delegates engaged in. This gave him great faith in building a stronger collective community despite divergences in the world for the future.

A closing ceremony took place on the final day of the conference at Bo’ao, home of the famous Bo’ao Forum for Asia. Ronna Chao, CEO of the Bai Xian Education Foundation and the Bai Xian Asia Institute, delivered a closing speech. She expressed that in the context of increasing global fractures, we should embrace dialogue, promote international cooperation and mutual understanding, and “only through communication and cooperation can we achieve a common vision and create a safer, brighter, and sustainable future.”

Associate Dean Fan Shiming of the Yenching Academy delivered a closing remark, congratulating Yenching Scholars and every participant for successfully hosting the forum. As the annual flagship event of the Yenching Academy held outside Beijing for the first time, this edition of YGS, in collaboration with the Hainan Provincial Government, the Lingshui International Education Innovation Pilot Zone, and the organizing team, involved a great deal of coordination and preparation.

Susan Peters, co-Chair of the Yenching Global Symposium and an American student at the Yenching Academy, delivered the concluding remarks. She congratulated all the delegates attending this year’s YGS and expressed appreciation for the collective efforts of everyone involved in the forum. She acknowledged that together they had witnessed many remarkable moments and extended gratitude to all the supporting partners of the symposium.

As a conference initiated and organized by the students of the Yenching Academy, YGS 2023 pieced together a vibrant picture of China and the world, helping delegates gain enriching experiences, meet new people, and discover new ideas. Dean Dong Qiang of Yenching offered these final, inspiring words, “The significance of a global forum spontaneously organized by scholars lies in our confidence in young people, students, and the future.”

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