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          ¡ª¡ªNGO Practices in Public Diplomacy to Realize the Chinese Dream

                                                      Jin Wei

The Young Women¡¯s Christian Association (YWCA) is a women¡¯s organization for social services that emerged in mid-19th century in the context of Britain¡¯s Industrial Revolution. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, it is represented in 125 countries and regions around the globe with a membership of more than 25 million. The YWCA is in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council with permanent representatives in the UNICEF (United Nations Children¡¯s Fund), Commission of the Status of Women and Commission for Social Development.
 
As a time¨Chonored, Christian rooted, women oriented voluntary movement, the YWCAs in China strive for the empowerment of women by enriching their lives in spirit, mind and body and work for leadership in service to humanity and in peace building to the world.  Our current  priorities are as follows:
 
a. Responding to the development needs of the vulnerable women groups in the period of social transformation;
 
b. Nurturing responsible citizens and leadership development of the young girls who commit themselves to work for change in their communities and beyond;            
 
c. Networking on global issues that are challenging women, families and communities today.
 
The YWCA of China has been actively engaging in international exchanges with plentiful fruits. There are three examples, in period of 2015 to the beginning of 2016, showing NGOs¡¯ efforts in realizing the ¡°Chinese Dream¡± in public diplomacy.
 
                                     Beauty of China Longed by All
 
In 2015 we invited key leaders from the World YWCA to visit China in order to enhance dialogue and exchanges. The World YWCA sent the president, general-secretary and treasurer of executive committee, demonstrating their keen interest in China and the YWCAs in China.
 
With a carefully-designed agenda, we presented our daily work to the visiting YWCA leaders and arranged interactions with local people and meetings with high-ranking government officials. As a result, our guests closely observed changes on people¡¯s life brought by China¡¯s economic and social development as well as the role of religion in this development process, they also witnessed Chinese people¡¯s ethnics in pursuing the ¡°Chinese Dream¡±. The YWCA general-secretary said heartedly: ¡°As the general-secretary, I enjoy the ¡®privilege¡¯ to choose which YWCA to join and my choice is definitely the YWCA of China.¡± All three leaders expressed that they would share with YWCAs across the world what they had learnt in China and China YWCA¡¯s experience and models in pre-school education, caring for the aged, community service and management of the association¡¯s assets and properties.
 
When the visit was about to conclude, the YWCA leaders spoke highly of their experience in China and proposed to co-host with YWCA of China a ¡°joint press release¡±. Broadcasted with multimedia, this release was held simultaneously in Shanghai and Geneva, where the headquarters of YWCA China and World YWCA locate respectively.  The press release fully acknowledged the high-level visit of YWCA and its outcome, helped to raise awareness of China¡¯s economic and social development and the progress on China¡¯s women status after the 1995 4th UN Conference on Women, reiterated basic principles of the relationship between YWCA of China and the World YWCA, and provided outlook of enhancing dialogue and interaction between YWCA of China and the World YWCA.
 
                                        World Council, Here We Are
 
One of the unique outcomes of the visit of the three top YWCA leaders is that YWCA of China was invited as an observer to the ¡°28th World YWCA Council¡± in Bangkok, Thailand in October of the same year. That was the first time for YWCA of China to make its ¡°debut¡± at the World YWCA Council since 1949.
 
At the Opening of the Council, the Chair, President of the World YWCA, gave a grand introduction about the delegation from China and invited us onto the stage. The China Delegation was wrapped with goodwill and warm applause. As put by our youngest delegate who was born after the 90s, it was ¡°igniting¡±. We deeply felt that only with a strong motherland, could the YWCA China enjoy dignity and status in the international community.
 
During the council, we told ¡°Chinese stories¡±, uttered ¡°Chinese voice¡±, established ¡°China¡¯s image¡± and made ¡°friends of various countries¡±. The China YWCA Delegation became a charming limelight in the 28th World YWCA Council and laid opinion foundation and sound relations for the return of the YWCA of China to the YWCA World Family.
 
The newly elected president of the World YWCA proposed to meet with us right after the election, and we were the only national delegation that she met with. During our meeting, she showed us the ¡°wooden fish¡±, a gift from YWCA of China at the 1947 ¡°World YWCA Council¡± in Hangzhou, and said it became a World YWCA routine that each council would unveil its curtains by hitting this ¡°wooden fish¡±. The ¡°special bonds¡± between the YWCA of China and the World YWCA were clear to see.
 
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the 4th UN Conference on Women in Beijing, and the United Nations hosted a series of activities for commemoration. The former head of UNICEF, an old friend of the YWCA of China, specially came for the ¡°28th World YWCA Council¡±.  She and the president of YWCA both spoke highly of President Xi Jinping¡¯s remarks at the UN Women¡¯s Summit and China¡¯s commitment and actions in promoting women¡¯s development around the world. What impressed them was that President Xi was there for more than 2 hours in a 3-hour meeting, winning wide respect from summit delegates. They both said that ¡°The world is China, China is the world.¡±
 
                        A Peace Pilgrimage that Starts from the Heart
 
¡°Nanjing Peace Pilgrimage¡± is a flagship program cooperated by the YWCA of China and YWCA of Japan, with the ¡°Hiroshima Peace Pilgrimage¡±, two programs on the same theme, aiming at peace education to youths of the two countries. Based on full preparation, ¡°Nanjing Peace Pilgrimage¡± kicked off in February, 2016. More than 40 young members of YWCA from both China and Japan took part in this program. Program activities included speeches by scholars, field visits, group debate and panel discussion. This program helped youths of the two countries to correctly understand history and factors that affect Sino-Japanese relationship, and uplifted their awareness of responsibility in being role models as peace makers.
 
Professor Cai Jianguo, member of the Chinese People¡¯s Political Consultative Conference and expert on Sino-Japanese relations, was invited to make a keynote speech on ¡°Status quo of Sino-Japanese Relations and Responsibilities and Roles of NGOs in China and Japan¡±; Professor Su Zhiliang, director-general of Research Centre on Comfort Women in China was invited to make a themed speech on ¡°Bringing Truth to History of ¡®Comfort Women¡¯¡±. These speeches provoked in-depth reflections among Chinese and Japanese participants. In addition, visits to the Memorial Hall for Compatriots Killed in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Forces of Aggression, the International Peace Zone of Hohn Rabe house and Nanjing ¡°Comfort Stations¡± Liji Lane Site Museum deeply touched and educated youths of the two countries.
 
This program was held against the backdrop of warming Sino-Japanese relations after a ¡°cold winter¡± and intended goals were achieved: 1. By hearing two ¡°heavyweight¡± speeches and carrying out relevant discussions, participants broadened their horizons and improved their understanding of Sino-Japanese ties in history and reality; 2. Through field visits, participants knew better about true history and recognized that peace is where well-being of the entire humankind lies. That was helpful in both short-term and long-term to promote members of the YWCAs , volunteers and the public in China and Japan to know better about historical truth and draw on from history; 3. This program encouraged a group of young volunteers and professionals from YWCAs of both China and Japan who were interested in topics on peace and devoted to work in peace cause, which was the hope of YWCAs. YWCA will continue to hold activities so as to respond to urgent demand of the youth generation in China and Japan on capacity building in peace education; 4. As YWCA China and Japan both realized the importance and urgency to carry out peace education on the younger generation of the two countries, it was determined that the ¡°Nanjing Peace Pilgrimage¡±, which previously was held once every four years, would be held once every two years instead.
 
As both YWCAs have been carrying out close dialogue and cooperation for a long time, and more and more YWCA members of Japan knew better of or became more friendly towards China.  The YWCA of Japan issued three public declarations from 2013 to 2014---Urging the Japanese Government to Apologize and Pay Compensations on the Issue of ¡°Comfort Women¡±, Protest on Prime Minister¡¯s Visit to Yasukuni Shrine and Emergent Appeal to Prevent Japan from Resuming Militarism, demonstrating NGOs¡¯ role in peace making.
 
China¡¯s relations with the world are undergoing profound changes, and our interconnectivity and interaction with the international community has become all the more close. In the critical juncture to realize the great renewal of the Chinese nation, NGOs can play a unique role in ¡°public diplomacy¡± with its own advantages. To tell good Chinese stories, utter the Chinese voice and build the image of China so as to contribute to building a shared community of common destiny is not only an important and relevant subject in NGOs¡¯ practice in realizing the ¡°Chinese dream¡± in public diplomacy, but also a lesson calling for continuous study. Therefore we will continue to ¡°seek solutions industriously¡± and march forward with great efforts.
 
  (The author is Executive Council Member of CAFIU and the President of the Young Women¡¯s Christian Association of China)
 
 
 
 
 
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