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Xi's longstanding friendship with the youth

By Ma Chi, Yan Maoqiang | | Updated: 2023-08-09 10:20
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Xi Jinping, then Party chief of Zhengding county of Hebei province, chats with students from Renmin University of China who were on a field research activity in the county on July 29, 1984. [Photo/Xinhua]

From his time as a county-level official to his present-day role as China's top leader, Xi Jinping has always kept in touch with what young people think and want.

Zhang Hongliang, a college student at Xiamen University in the 1980s, never expected he would receive a letter from Xi, then deputy mayor of the city in Fujian province.

"Hello, Hongliang... sorry for the delay in replying to your letter. Let's find a time to chat. You can find me in room 301 of No 2 building on Tuqiang Road," the letter read.

"I was surprised to receive the reply," Zhang said. In his message, he expressed a wish to meet the young official. "He could have told his secretary to call, but instead, he wrote the letter himself."

Zhang went to the address on a Sunday afternoon. The initial uneasiness he felt after entering Xi's home soon disappeared after he was welcomed amicably.

Xi asked about Liang and his schoolmates. After learning Liang had just been admitted as a full member of the Communist Party of China, Xi encouraged him to keep seeking progress and "proactively find challenges to overcome".

"You have read a lot of books, but there is much 'water' in the knowledge you learned. You need to squeeze out the 'water' by testing the knowledge in practice and in interaction with the masses."

These interactions were not one-offs. During the summer of 1984, Xi, then Party chief of Zhengding county, received some special guests - a group of university students from Renmin University of China who were on a field research activity.

"He was frank and candid, and his words gave me great inspiration," recalled Xu Nanxiong, one of the students.

Ren Jinfang, another student at the scene, recounted her impressions of the meeting: "It was hard to imagine us students would meet the Party chief of a county. But Xi was easy-going and casually sat with us in the dormitory."

During the students' three-day stay in Zhengding, Xi chatted with them several times and encouraged them to gain first-hand experience by working at the grassroots level after graduation.

This habit has continued even after Xi took on his present role. Every year around May 4 (China's Youth Day), Xi visits universities to talk with students or communicates with them through letters.

This year, ahead of Youth Day, Xi wrote a reply letter to students from China Agricultural University.

"You said only by walking deep into rural China could one understand what it means to seek truth from facts, and maintain close ties with the people. You spoke very well," the message read. "I hope you aim high while keeping your feet firmly on the ground, and contribute your youthful vigor to the cause of our country's rural modernization."

Edited by Ian Goodrum 

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