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Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we are celebrating our most recent class of graduates — over one thousand students, who will embark on a new journey. Since UIC was founded in 2005, I have felt extremely proud to have served as president to nearly ten thousand graduates. “Ten thousand” is a special number in Chinese culture - it symbolises something complete as well as something new.

Not only is our campus new, but also our students are heading out into a new and changing world.

You may have noticed that some of our faculty members and students have been developing electric vehicles that function without a driver. In the near future, I hope you will have a chance to be a passenger in an unmanned vehicle for an exciting campus tour.

Two years ago, AlphaGo made its name by defeating human world champions of Go matches. Artificial Intelligence has been a trending topic since then. If you look around, you will see various smart services in daily life and work, including voice recognition, smart homes, self-checkout supermarkets, self-driving vehicles, and more.

Amongst the wave of AI and technology advancements globally, I believe we should keep a clear mind that humanity remains at the core of the development. We as human beings should be the master of technology, rather than allowing the technology to master us. In this regard, UIC’s liberal arts education and whole person education will be tremendously helpful in guiding UIC students to thrive in this exciting new world.

The world we live in is changing every day. However, it is crucial to take a broader view while recognising the forces that drive the changes. This large and incisive view will enable us to keep up with the rapidly changing era.

Looking back at history, from the Peace of Westphalia to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, the Yalta Conference after World War II, the Cold War, the post-Cold War era, and until today, we can see that the world repeats the pattern of “conflicts – reconciliation – conflicts”, year after year, century after century. We as a community and a people are striving to discover a solution to this recurring and agonizing circumstance.

In the 1970s, Arnold Toynbee, a great British historian, who predicted that the world’s future was in China, and the way out for mankind lies in Chinese civilisation.

Earlier than Toynbee’s prediction, Bertrand Russell, a well-known British philosopher, commented that “All the world will be vitally affected by the development of Chinese affairs, which may well prove a decisive factor, for good or evil, during the next two centuries.”

It is worth noting that these two great scholars made such remarks when China was in a reduced state of economic and social development. Why did they say so?

In my opinion, the reason is that Chinese civilisation remains the only civilisation that has lasted without disruption in the history of mankind. Through the numerous millenniums, it has exhibited a tenacious vitality.

The key to the vitality lies in the inclusivity of Chinese civilisation. As the Confucian classic Zhong Yong reads, “All things are nourished together without injury. The seasons, the sun and moon take their steady course without collision.” Different nations, as well as civilisations, should harbour respect for one another. Indeed, they should learn from one another to cooperate and to develop together. At this year’s conference of the Boao Forum for Asia, President Xi Jinping stated that the aspirations -- to “build world peace, contribute to global prosperity and uphold the international order” -- are the essential concepts to which the Chinese civilisation has been adhering for thousands of years. Happiness should be not only enjoyed by a small elite but shared by all human beings. “Working together to build a community of shared future for mankind” is the “China plan” for creating a world of the future. The concept of “the world is whole” is ingrained only in the Chinese culture and that is why we erected the “Datong Stone” in UIC’s Central Island.

Dear graduates, you are about to join a new era, in which you have inherited a great legacy and are looking to a bright future. How exciting! You are part of a new world order providing wonderful opportunities that China has not accomplished for centuries. How fortunate!

Frankly speaking, I wish I could have had the opportunities you have. From what I understand, around 60% of you are ready to go overseas for further study. You may not know that in my time, the experience and feelings of studying abroad were quite different from yours today.

China back then was not as strong as it is today. Studying in a foreign country meant that you could be treated unfairly, not to mention you had to quickly overcome culture shocks. My personal experience of studying abroad was somewhat mixed: I was confused with a different culture and society, but I was resolute to handle the pressures to become economically self-dependent and was eager to learn and succeed.

On the other hand, it was exactly what my generation of international students experienced that has produced the most sincere and strongest sense of our home country. It drove us to overcome difficulties and study diligently with the determination to serve our home country one day as well as to help it become better.

Now you have more opportunities to study abroad as China has developed a great deal. I think the significance of studying abroad for you is not just acquiring knowledge, but experiencing different cultures, and more importantly, helping people from diverse backgrounds understand Chinese culture. This is also one of the primary reasons why UIC established the Research Institute for Dissemination of Chinese Culture.

The world is big. There are many civilisations that have nurtured a wide variety of cultures. Each culture has its own features worth discovering, admiring and learning. As late Chinese professor of sociology and anthropology, Mr Fei Xiaotong said, “Appreciate the culture of others as you do your own, and the world will become a harmonious whole.”

It is a long and complicated process to become even acquainted with another culture. When you study abroad, you will directly make contact with the local culture. If you embrace the essence of the culture, if you, in other words, learn to distinguish what is good from what is evil, you will eventually become a Junzi (gentleman/lady) who possesses a world view and respects different opinions. The six dormitory buildings in our Hui Xian Village of the Bo Ya Town, each named after Chinese and foreign sages of different times, suggests a similar insight. The names signify the gathering of virtuous and wise people, helping you to engage with diverse civilisations.

I look forward to seeing the young generation make a significant difference, but I would also hasten to remind you to be prepared to confront failure. US Chief Justice, John Roberts, wished the students “bad luck” in his address at his son’s graduation. This wish might appear at first to be counterintuitive; however, there is deep meaning. Only by failure can you recognise the inevitable role of probability and opportunity in life, and then understand that success is not for granted and that failure is not destined.

The five Honorary Fellows who have joined the UIC family today can be your role models. Professor Peter M. Bentler, Dr Liu Qingfeng, Professor Chia-Wei Woo, Professor Ye Lang and Professor Zhang Hongyan, they all have achieved eminence in their respective fields of expertise as a result of their remarkable feats. However, I believe that their roads to success were not always smooth. I hope you will learn from their experiences and contribute to the development of the country and the world. In particular, you should learn their courage to handle adversity and blaze your own path.

Dear graduates: embarking on a new journey, you should shoot for the stars. The journey is just beginning. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to your teachers for their caring guidance, and thank all the parents for their trust and support. I would like to ask all graduating students to join me in giving a big hand to thank your parents, families and teachers, who have supported you with love and selflessness.

Thank you!