The year 2014 is the China-Russia Year of Youth Friendly Exchanges, which was jointly initiated by President Xi Jinping and President Putin. Entrusted by the All China Youth Federation, Prof. Liu Lin, President of Beijing City University headed a 24-member China Youth Delegation to pay a five-day visit to Vladivostok. The delegation, on behalf of All China Youth Federation, held a two-day Conference of China-Russia Youth Friendship and Cooperation with the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Foundation of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russia Youth Federation at the Far-Eastern Federal University. As one of the important official activities for the China-Russia Year of Youth Friendly Exchanges, this conference was given high attention by both governments and youth organizations. Leading officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education as well as the Chairman of All Russia Youth Federation traveled to the far-eastern region from Moscow to attend the conference. Participants from both sides had full exchanges of views over ¡°how to expand youth exchanges and perpetuate China-Russia friendship¡±, reached many consensuses and adopted a resolution, which emphasized the important mission and significance of strengthening and expanding youth exchanges. The delegation also visited the municipal government of Vladivostok at the invitation of the mayor and had discussions with some young government officials. Russian friends spoke highly of the visit, saying that this delegation, as the first Chinese youth delegation to Russia¡¯s far eastern region, is of important significance in the history of China-Russia youth exchanges.
China fans: a growing population among Russian youth
During our exchanges with Russian university students, we found that Chinese miracles are attracting more and more Russian young people. They hope to know more about Chinese culture and the life of contemporary Chinese people.
About half century ago, many Chinese and Soviet Union¡¯s young people established friendship through exchange of correspondences. Today, modern media such as the internet constitute more convenient ways of exchanges between the two countries. A 21-year-old student from the Far Eastern Medical Institute told us that Russian young people are very interested in the way of living of the Chinese people. There are many Chinese tea houses nowadays in Russia and going to tea house instead of bar has become a new fashion. In addition, more and more Russian young people are fascinated by Chinese martial art. They also want to know what kind of music young people in China like most, blue or jazz; who is the most popular singer in China now; which Russian movies have Chinese young people watched, etc. He said, ¡°we could hardly get to know these things in Russia, nor could we get the information from our grandfathers. Their memories about the China-Soviet Union friendship are no longer enough to meet our curiosity towards today¡¯s China.¡±
During our visit, there were intensive reports on the rapid increase of mileage of Chinese high speed railway as well as China¡¯s efforts in rigid restrictions over product quality. These news reports caused a big stir among Russian people, especially the young generation. The phenomenon of news headlines about Chinese shabby goods have been gone for good. Nowadays, Russian people closely follow news about Beijing. Many young Russians are even secretly saving money for their trips to Beijing one day in the future so that they could witness the great changes and development there. ¡°Chinese dream¡±, ¡°Xi Dada¡±, ¡°the question of south China sea¡±, ¡°Liaoning Aircraft Carrier¡± etc, have already become the buzz words in today¡¯s Russia. More and more Russian young people are turning into China fans. They are fond of Chinese culture, closely follow China¡¯s development and expect common prosperity of the two countries. This has constituted an emerging force that will carry forward the long-standing traditional friendship between China and Russia, as well as the future backbone for people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
Broad minded, Russian youth at the crossroad of oriental and western cultures
In order to accommodate the vast landmass of Russia, which stretches over the Eurasia continent, Russian people designed their national flag as a double-headed eagle with one head facing the west and the other the east, taking good care of both the western paradise and the futile eastern land. Many different ethnic groups, trends of thoughts and religious beliefs coexist and grow together in mutual accommodation in order to maintain peace. In the process accordingly, numerous national classics have emerged: great master of literature Tolstoy, music master Tchaikovsky, scientific pioneer Pavlov, leading philosopher Lenin, military genius Kutuzov, ballet master piece the Swan Lake, you name it. Even Christianity was transformed into Eastern Orthodoxy after entering Russia, and the Cross was added a horizontal part symbolizing justice, fairness, universal love and equality. No wonder Russian young people are so proud to say that they are as tough as Europeans, as smart as Asians, as shrewd as Jews, as generous as North Americans and as optimistic as Africans. Just like our interpreter told us that Russians value every passing day, and will never waste the time on unnecessary worries about the unforeseeable and untouchable tomorrow. Indeed, what we had seen on the street of Vladivostok were all happy and carefree Russians instead of urban dwellers with busy and fast-paced life.
In our conversations, we were impressed by the broad mind of Russian young people as well as their sense of inclusiveness. Most of them believe in the priority of individual demands and would let them exist and grow as long as these demands do not affect others. At the central square of Vladivostok, you can see some Russian girls holding horses there, trying to attract tourists to pay for a ride. No one came to interfere their business and tourists could also ride the horse freely on the square without getting contemptuous look from passers-by.
Russian youth¡¯s broad mind is also reflected in their attitude towards the history. When we were there, we met several senior veterans. With their military medals pinned on the cloth, these old soldiers walked down the street proudly. Although these medals could easily trigger people¡¯s nostalgia about the Soviet era, nobody came to stop them or say no. When the old are strolling on the street, free and at ease, showing off their glorious past, the young are busy with the latest fashion trend. Living on a land that stretches across Eurasia and in a period that experience a transition from Soviet socialism to Russian capitalism, Russian youth are embracing the future with their inclusiveness and broad mind.
Friendship for Generations: China-Russia people-to-people exchanges have a long way to go
The year 2014 is the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia, and it is also the China-Russia Year of Youth Friendly Exchanges initiated by the two Presidents. China and Russia are close neighbors with a long-standing friendship. With the deepening of economic globalization, political multi-polarization and cultural diversification, the traditional friendship between the two countries have been endowed with new connotation. Our visit this time has deepened the knowledge of Chinese youth about Russia, but we are also concerned about the lack of mutual understanding between the youth from the two sides about each other¡¯s country and each other¡¯s life as well. For a quite long time, Russian young people could hardly get timely and objective information about China from their local media, and our understanding about Russia is no more than a kind of memory of the past. For example, whenever people talk about Russian songs, Hawthorn Trees or The Evening of the Moscow Suburb is definitely the first thing that comes to mind. But this time, we learned that Russian college students love rock and roll, and rap too. A student named Sasha from the Far Eastern Federal University told us frankly that Russia seldom imports contemporary Chinese film. Most of the Chinese films he watched are Kong-fu movies made in Hong Kong in 1980s. He also said that for a quite long time he even believed that Chinese could really leap onto roofs and run on walls.
I asked Sasha how Russians view about the China-Russia relations. After a while, he told me that China used to be the little brother, but it is strong now; Russia used to be the big brother, but it is lagging behind now. Despite of a lackluster economy in recent year, Russian military industry is still one of the best in the world. In contrast, its civilian industry, especially light industry has made no progress at all. Vladivostok is not an industrial city, nor is it an economically developed place. Therefore, many industrial goods for daily use are imported from China. Many Russians have a complicated feeling about China, because they want to be big brother, but have to ask for help from the little brother. This is just like what brothers do. Sometimes they quarrel, but their fraternal ties will not be affected. We have reasons to believe that as various exchanges between the two countries, especially exchanges between the youth, continue to deepen, the bilateral relationship will grow from strength to strength.
Therefore, we suggest enhancing people-to-people exchanges on the basis of China-Russia Year of Youth Friendly Exchanges, and promoting different types and levels of exchanges to expand the coverage of friendly exchanges. The governments should give more support to cultural and people¡¯s exchanges so as to improve the situation of ¡°hot political relations yet cold economic and even colder cultural relations¡±. On the geographical location of exchange and cooperation projects, we suggest to change the current situation of ¡°hot west, cold east¡± and pay more attention to exchanges with the far eastern region to make our relations with Russia more balanced and coordinated. Moreover, we suggest strengthening media cooperation and exchange. We are looking forward to the upcoming ¡°China-Russia Year of Media Exchange¡± from 2016 to 2017. We believe that modern media can be a very useful bridge of friendship, enabling youth from both countries to better know each other and then find out the significance and practical meaning of bilateral friendship. ¡°A future-oriented nation always lays hopes on the youth. Two friendly neighbors should also put our hopes for long-lasting friendship on the young generation.¡± This was an excellent summary on the far-reaching significance of bilateral youth exchanges made by Premier Wen Jiabao in September 2013, during his meeting with Chinese and Russian young representatives in Moscow. Just as he said, only when the young generations from both countries build up mutual trust on the basis of mutual understanding, can the two countries ensure friendship from generation to generation.
(This article is provided by Beijing City University. BCU President Liu Lin is CAFIU¡¯s Executive Council member.)