Class of '77 revels in memories of event that changed lives

By Zhao Xinying and Luo Wangshu | China Daily | 2017-06-07 07:35

Class of '77 revels in memories of event that changed lives

Freshmen at Tsinghua University in the spring of 1978. [Photo/Xinhua]


According to Wang Huiyao, a member of the Class of '77 who now runs a think tank that formulates policies related to spotting talents, things often become clearer when people look back.

"Compared with a lot of young people who had spent three, five or even 10 years working in the countryside, I was really lucky because I was young and had only recently left school. That meant I still had a sense of learning when the gaokao was revived," he said.

"If the exam had been revived a few years later, perhaps the learning abilities of people my age would have been weakened by the long days of farm work, and we may have missed out on the opportunity to attend college."

He said students who passed the gaokao in 1977 and the years that followed were the executors of the reform and opening-up policy, and they benefited by becoming senior officials and influential figures during the process.

Now that many of them have turned 60 and have retired, he feels it's time to look back, sum up and leave a legacy.

To do that, he compiled a book, The Three Classes of 1977 to 1979: Memories of Chinese College Students. Published in 2014, the book invited 38 outstanding students from the "new three classes" - including the writer Liu Zhenyun, Xu Xiaoping, cofounder of the New Oriental Education & Technology Group, and Chen Pingyuan, professor of Chinese literature at Peking University - to tell their stories.

Wang plans to publish an updated version of the book later this year. He has invited members of the "three new classes" to share their experiences and commemorate the 40th anniversary of an epochal event in their lives.

Tang Min said members of the Class of 1977 and even those of 1978 and 1979 are special, but their achievements should not be exaggerated.

In his opinion, though many people from the group became elites in many walks of life in China, very few became world-famous scholars or successful enterprisers.

"I think we serve as a link between the past and the future; we are more like the forerunners or pathfinders, pushing forward reform and opening-up along with China's social and economic development," he said.

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