Vice Chancellor Medwin Hughes,
Director Vivienne Stern,
Judges and Contestants,
Teachers and Students,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a real pleasure to join you at the UK Regional Final of the 19th "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Proficiency Competition.
This year, for the first time, the "Chinese Bridge" Competition is held online. Although we are gathered "in the cloud" rather than face-to-face, our shared enthusiasm for the Chinese culture has brought us closely together just like before.
The theme of the competition – "One World, One Family" - is particularly relevant in this special year.
COVID-19 has been ravaging the world since its outbreak. Countries around the world have been tiding over the difficulties together, supporting and sticking with each other through thick and thin. The pandemic has brought us closer and made us stronger. It has also enabled us to realize that mankind is a community with a shared future, and that regardless of nationality, race, skin color or language, the world is one big family.
In building "One World, One Family" and contributing to a community with a shared future for mankind, learning and mastering the Chinese language will be of great importance in the following three aspects:
First, gather support for world peace.
On the stone wall in front of the UNESCO headquarters is the inscription of one single message in several languages:
Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.
Peace and benevolence are traditional values that are deeply rooted in the heart of the Chinese people. The Chinese language is a key that opens the door to understanding these values, such as Confucius teaching of "harmony without uniformity".
About the difference between "harmony" and "uniformity", Chinese philosopher Yan Ying who lived 2,500 years ago made an analogy. He said,
"Harmony is like cooking soup with different ingredients and spices and trying to bring out the flavour of each in a feast for the palate. It is also like making beautiful music with different timbre, rhythm and dynamics and trying to execute them properly."
"Who can eat soup with nothing but water in it? What ear can tolerate the same tone played repeatedly on one instrument?"
I hope that with your mastery of the Chinese language and culture, you will become supporters for open and inclusive values as well as builders of peace in a world that is undergoing changes unseen in a century.
Second, pave the way for mutual assistance and win-win cooperation.
China and the UK have had productive cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, coordinating policies, sharing experience, providing medical supplies, and developing vaccines and medicines. The empathy and support between the peoples of our two countries are especially heartwarming. The pupils from Milburn Primary School in Northern Ireland rooted for China by recording a Chinese song "Let the World be Full of Love". Their voices were beautiful and moving, and the video went viral on social media in China. The pupils of Datong Primary School in Changsha, China sent supportive messages in drawings, letters and short videos to their sister school Lincoln Minster School in Britain, along with about 6,500 face masks. Such display of sincerity, kindness and friendship towards each other by our children is a great encouragement for all of us trying to foster stronger ties between our two great countries.
Currently, Covid-19 has been brought under control in China, and businesses and factories are reopening. This will provide greater opportunities for cooperation with other countries including Britain. As China and the UK join forces to control COVID-19 and push for economic recovery, talented young people who are fluent in both Chinese and English are sought-after. I hope you will leverage your bilingual skills and contribute to the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the UK.
Third, open the door to mutual trust and mutual learning.
The world today is still not free from cultural barriers and walls of bigotry. To bring an end to the estrangement and clash between different civilizations and the claim of supremacy of one over the others, we must promote exchanges, encourage mutual learning and advocate coexistence.
Despite the impact from Covid-19 on international travel and educational exchanges, I can still see among the young people here in the UK a growing enthusiasm for studying in China. In the new academic year, a total of 89 British students are awarded Chinese Government Scholarships and 22 have received International Chinese Teachers Scholarships. They will soon be on their way to China for further studies.
The Chinese language is a "golden key". I hope you will use it to open the door to understanding Chinese civilization and to promote mutual learning, mutual respect and mutual trust not only between China and Britain but also between the Eastern and Western civilizations.
In conclusion, let me quote from a letter that President Xi Jinping wrote to international students in Beijing. He said:
"China welcomes outstanding young people from all over the world to China for studies. I encourage you to learn more about the country, to communicate more with young people here and to tell more to the world about what you see in China. I hope young people around the world will join hands to bring people of different nations closer and to contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind."
I hope you will all work harder to learn and master the Chinese language, and become envoys of China-UK friendship, builders of "One World, One Family" and contributors to a community with a shared future for mankind!
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the teachers and volunteers who have over the years devoted their time and efforts to Chinese language teaching and brought the Chinese culture to the doorsteps of the British people. I also want to express my heartfelt thanks to people from all walks of life in China and Britain who care about and support the "Chinese Bridge".
Last but not least, to all the contestants, I hope you will enjoy today's competition and give it your very best. And I wish the 19th "Chinese Bridge" Chinese Proficiency Competition UK Regional Final great success!