Chinese President Hu Jintao (C), Japanese table tennis player Ai Fukuhara (R) and Chinese table tennis player Wang Nan (L) pose for photograph at Waseda University's Okuma Garden House in Tokyo May 8, 2008. [Agencies]
TOKYO - President Hu Jintao stressed the importance of youth exchanges yesterday, inviting 100 students from Tokyo's Waseda University to visit China.
He extended the invitation when delivering a speech at the prestigious university, saying the visit would be part of the ongoing China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of the Youth.
(L to R) Japanese table tennis player Ai Fukuhara, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and Chinese table tennis player Wang Nan pose for photograph after Hu's playing table tennis at Waseda University's Okuma Garden House in Tokyo May 8, 2008. [Agencies]
"I hope that students here can join in the exchange project to visit China," Hu said.
"The youth should advance the world's civilization and contribute to mankind's prosperity," Hu quoted Waseda alumnus Li Dazhao, China's pioneering revolutionary early last century, as saying.
He called for a new era of partnership between Beijing and Tokyo in business, the environment and regional development.
After the speech, Hu removed his glasses and jacket to play table tennis with Japanese star Ai Fukuhara, drawing loud cheers from spectators.
Hu made several smashes and beamed for the cameras as Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, 71, looked on.
"I'm glad I didn't take him on," Fukuda said. "He's a very strategic player."
In his speech, broadcast live on Japan's NHK public television, Hu said: "The two countries should be partners, not competitors. One's growth can be the other's opportunity, not a threat."
On Japan's war of aggression on China in the 1930s and '40s, Hu said: "This unfortunate history not only caused tremendous suffering to the Chinese people but also gravely hurt the Japanese people."
It is important for both countries to remember history, but it does not mean holding grudges, he said.
"The friendship between the two countries depends on the younger generation."
A group of 200 young Chinese are accompanying Hu's entourage as part of the youth exchange between the two countries, said Ni Jian, director of the Liaison Office of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League, who heads the delegation.
Fukuhara was one of the young Japanese welcoming Chinese peers including China's table tennis heavyweight Wang Nan.
Fukuhara speaks fluent Chinese with a Northeast China accent because she has been receiving professional training there since her kindergarten years. In 2005, she became the first foreigner to play in China's domestic table tennis tournament.
She was named one of goodwill ambassadors of the 2007 Japan-China Culture and Sports Exchange Year.
It is not the first time Hu had exchanges with Japanese youth.
In 1984, Hu, then the first secretary of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League and chairman of the All-China Youth Federation, was responsible for receiving 3,000 young Japanese visiting China to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the normalization of the China-Japan relations.
The following year, Hu led a 100-member Chinese delegation on a reciprocal visit.
Agencies contributed to the story