Executive President's 2019 graduation address

July 24, 2019

Growing towards the future

Dear graduates, colleagues, parents and friends,

On this unforgettable day, let me first offer my congratulations to this year’s XJTLU graduates. Today begins a whole new chapter in your life! My deepest thanks go to the faculty and staff, and the parents and friends who have given our graduates continued support!

The graduation season always gives me mixed feelings. XJTLU strives to help our students transform from children to young adults, and ultimately to global citizens. Seeing all of you eagerly awaiting your future, singing the ‘111 Ren’ai Road’ and reciting the lyrics of ‘Walking from Ren’ai Road out into the World,’ I am as excited as you are, both for you and for your future.

Dear graduates, we look forward to the future, and you will create the future. In fact, you are the future! But I need to tell you, the future may not be as bright and sunny as we might expect.

During the recent G20 Summit, many world leaders expressed their concerns about the future, saying that ‘this is a key time in the international situation’ and ‘the world economy is once again at a crossroads.’

Dear graduates, you have an volatile and unpredictable world awaiting you. How will you face such a daunting future? How will you face the obstacles ahead of you?

Some people may meet an uncertain future with fear and worry, and may choose a path of escapism and live in nostalgia and regret. Other people may seek the shelter of others, letting their ideas slip away in the pursuit of comfort. Such attitudes leave people bored and helpless. But uncertainty brings opportunity and ambiguity inspires brilliance. With the arrival of disruptive technology, an escapist attitude will leave you ‘disrupted.’ With a positive attitude, however, you may be able to use this technology to reach new levels of greatness and brilliance.

As an entrepreneurial international university, XJTLU is always looking toward the future. It is in our nature to discover new opportunities. Innovation is in our DNA. It is part of our mission to cultivate talent that will contribute to society. Since our founding, we have sought to grow toward the future. As members of the XJTLU community, we call on you to carry forward XJTLU’s pioneering spirit, and its culture and DNA of brilliance.

To us, ‘growing toward the future’ means facing the future resolutely with a clear mission, and charging forward. You must not only understand the future; you will use your brilliance to create the future.

If you want to ‘grow toward the future,’ you first need to have ambition. XJTLU strives to cultivate global citizens by helping students to both enjoy their right to be on this earth, while also helping them to understand the responsibility that lies therein. As global citizens, XJTLU students must face the future with a positive attitude, and strive to make the world a better place through their efforts. Capability comes in a close second.

XJTLU’s motto is ‘Light and Wings.’ The ‘Light’ refers to being able to, through one’s studies, see the world, the future, your dreams and yourself. ‘Wings’ refer to the ‘wings’ that you must develop to pursue those dreams, to create value, to advance your career and to change the world. Recognising the light helps keep us on a straight path, while the strength of our wings can move mountains. Finally, you must remain firm in your path.

Reality can be dark and ruthless, but our ideals are wonderful. The path to the future is fraught with obstacles. Wisdom can get us closer to reaching our ideals and achieving success. To borrow a saying from the German chancellor Angela Merkel, ‘Anything that seems to be set in stone and unalterable, can be changed’. If I apply this to myself and my own mindset, it means that we must find our own unique way of diligently pursuing our dreams.

In fact, XJTLU’s own development is a testimony to this. On June 19 this year, the QS World University Rankings 2020 were released in London. Our students joked in their WeChat Moments that this small and simple Xipu (XJTLU), only 13 years old, broke into the global top 1,000, and into China’s top 39. Moreover, in QS Asian University Rankings 2019, the ratio of international facuty and outbound exchange of XJTLU ranked No. 1 among Asian universities. Personally, I do not care much for rankings, nor does XJTLU, but it is a way of assessing the quality of universities from the outside. These rankings do confirm that we have achieved recognition globally. XJTLU’s growth model thus bears a striking resemblance to Huawei’s.

Thirteen years ago, a small institution called XJTLU saw an opportunity to remold education on a large scale. We abandoned the idea of simply copying other successful Chinese and foreign universities, holding firmly to our ambition of educational exploration and choosing the ‘harder road’. Building on Chinese and international experiences, XJTLU adopts both western and Chinese wisdom. We are bold and unique, striving to lead and to innovate.

Once seen as a ‘diploma mill’, we gradually built our global reputation. This achievement came as the result of the knowledge and efforts of our faculty and students, and from the continued support of our friends. It is also a testament to our ability to foresee future trends and demands, and our commitment to cultivate talent for the future world.

XJTLU’s exploration of Syntegrative Education – our new, pioneering education model – aims to take this to the next level, fostering international industry elites and leaders who can stand on the shoulders of artificial intelligence and robotics to drive future industries. This education model is the result of XJTLU’s understanding of society’s future human resource needs. Right now, we are planning and designing XJTLU Version 3.0, with an aim to provide a uniquely XJTLU paradigm for future education.

I spoke about how to better grow toward the future in my address ‘Leading in the Future with a HeXie Mindset’ to the University during the 2018 Teacher’s Day ceremony. In the face of a society being shaped by disruptive technology, lifestyles, business models, our industrial development structures and social evolution patterns are experiencing a series of paradigm shifts. In the face of such a future, people must transform their current mindset into a ‘HeXie mindset.’

The ‘HeXie mindset’ comes from the ‘Hexie management theory’ that my team and I have developed. The basic logic is that in the context of uncertainty, ambiguity, complexity and changeability, both organisations and individuals alike must have a clear understanding of their life-position as well as a vision and mission for career growth in order to keep on the right track and remain confident. Based on this position, vision and mission, goals must be set and key tasks identified. For work that can be standardised, systems, procedures and tools can be applied to create a system of support. For work that cannot be standardised, we can shape cultural environments and mobilise human dynamics through policy, culture and emotions. The specific goals and the two systems can be continuously adjusted and coordinated in response to the changing environment and new developments.

The ‘HeXie mindset’ is a mindset, thought pattern and behavioral model based on HeXie management theory. It emphasises systems evolution, directionality and the establishment of symbiotic systems, as well as the fostering of balance and edge innovation. It helps people drive their own life and career growth from a macro-perspective and is a cutting-edge tool to help people deal with daily uncertainties, ambiguities, complexities and changeabilities.

Drawing on the framework of ‘HeXie mindset’ and from your own inspiring stories, let me offer you a few valuable lessons for your lives.
First, be clear on your own position in life, and know your dreams and aspirations. Life is full of choices, and only by knowing future trends and what you want out of life can you be clear in what steps you need to take and not get lost in the choices or in comparison with other people. Take Wu Yutong from XJTLU’s International Business School Suzhou, for example. Her deep sense of business and social responsibility, and her firm commitment to find ways for both business and public interest to coexist, led her to pursue graduate studies in public policy in the United States.

Second, think strategically at all stages of your life. Pool your resources together and grow efficiently. The road of life is a long one, and the scenery at each stretch of this road is different. Only by setting clear goals and taking on our growth in stages can we avoid pitfalls and falling into a path without direction or purpose. Zhang Qianqian, from the Department of China Studies, always had her sights set on Oxford and Cambridge for postgraduate studies. In the end her dreams came true. Shi Jiawei, a deep admirer of star translator Zhang Lu, became the first student from our English department to enrol in Oxford University’s applied linguistics and second language acquisition masters programme.

Third, integrate Eastern and Western cultures, and build bold character, a capacity to absorb diversity and a wisdom that can navigate through times of complexity. The international character of XJTLU can blend the systematic, logical and scientific Western mindset with the Eastern mindset’s aptitude towards art and responsiveness toward ambiguity and uncertainty. XJTLU’s diverse cultural ecosystem is beneficial in developing your innovative thinking, improving your ability to solve complex problems, and giving you wisdom to respond to contradictions and achieve breakthroughs. From the small bridges and canals of Suzhou over to Italy, and across Cambodia, Yu Xinning from XJTLU’s Department of Architecture brought the philosophy of Chinese architecture to lesser developed regions internationally to provide affordable housing solutions. She will head to the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London after graduation to explore the best ways to incorporate environmental considerations into architecture.

Fourth, stay focussed and work to create an ecosystem of mutual gain. In the face of a digital, globalised and online future, you must pursue your own interests to the fullest. This is not merely to pursue your own happiness, but to create value for humankind. Such efforts must be accompanied by genuine cooperation. One example of this is the team of XJTLU students Zhang Xiaotian, Wang Guangyu and Zhang Yihua, who won an international interdisciplinary contest in modeling. Each team member was responsible for one part of the contest, including coding, content drafting and mathematical modeling. They epitomised complementarity and collaboration, realising the huge potential of cooperative ecosystem.

Fifth, be ready to be at the frontier of innovation, breaking not only your own personal barriers, but also raising yourself to a new level. Opportunity always lies behind uncertainty. Sustainability depends on a pioneering attitude and disruptive innovation. After four years at XJTLU, Gong Zhiyun, from the Department of Biological Sciences, went from an easy-going girl who did not know who she was to a girl with deep academic ambitions and an open mind to possibilities. She chose to follow her dream of studying computational biology at Carnegie Mellon over the great Harvard University, choosing the road less travelled but more aligned with her personal goals and vision.

Dear graduates, your greatness is not limited to this. I hope that these examples can help you to write your own stories. Let us all grow together, cultivate a HeXie mindset and create our future together!

The future is here. Go achieve brilliance!

July 24, 2019