Setting sail against lightning and thunder
2021 Graduation Ceremony Address from the Executive President
Dear students, colleagues, parents and friends:
In the summer when cicadas sing and the five-star pond on the South Campus is covered with lotus leaves, the graduating Class of 2021 is about to set sail. On behalf of the University, I’d like to extend my warmest congratulations to you! I’d also like to express my sincere gratitude to our faculty, parents and friends from all walks of life – it is your collective efforts, support and trust that have shaped the students into who they are today.
The pandemic is what made this graduation season extraordinary and meaningful. Having been through the ordeal of Covid-19, you now have an unforgettable experience tackling uncertainty and a deeper understanding of globalisation in an increasingly complex environment. Whether you will continue your studies, take up a job or start a business, I believe that, given the international vision, attainment, capability and wisdom XJTLU has nurtured in you, you will ease into this ever-changing world to explore and follow your dreams and fulfil your responsibilities as world citizens. The graduation ceremony is not only to congratulate you on your outstanding academic achievements, but also to celebrate your broadened horizons, elevated mind and growth in life. The graduation certificate symbolises your status as armed warriors, the cap and gown your forged weapon, as you prepare to face the future with your wisdom. I hope that the tassel on your cap shall become a shining medal in recognition of your quick adaptation and great strides in this world.
You are about to set sail into the future. Like a fish in a stream, you will swim across the twists and turns along the way, until you reach the river far and beyond and find yourself riding the waves. Like a bird roaming in the sky, you will encounter dark clouds as well as rays of sunshine. You can dance with the wind, and when lightning flashes and thunder rumbles, you shall spread your wings and soar.
However, the Delta variant, a more powerful virus, has triggered another round of outbreak which keeps mankind stranded in fear. Conflicts between different ideologies and institutions are intensifying, and resentment from one nation against another continues to escalate. The world is covered with dark clouds, where globalisation seems to be heading for the abyss and people worldwide are engulfed in anxiety. So what should we do? Henry Mintzberg, a famous management expert, stated: “Enough of the imbalance that is destroying our democracies, our planet, and ourselves. We require a form of radical renewal unprecedented in the human experience, … which is not some ‘them’, but you, and me, and we, acting together.”
To better align your actions, at this crossroad in life where we bid farewell, I would like to leave you with three take-away messages which I hope will keep you company and warm your heart throughout your upcoming journey in life.
I hope that you have a flame of hope in your hearts.
Let’s think back on China 100 years ago when it suffered from enduring poverty and people plunged into deep misery. But even in those dark times, a group of young men and women were determined to light themselves like candles so as to wake up the slumbering crowd and illuminate the way forward. They didn't know when the dark night would dissipate or when a prosperous and loveable China would rise up. But at the darkest hour, they made the most courageous choice. With the flame of hope in their hearts they shed their blood in the battlefield in exchange for happiness for the future generations of this nation.
China has been through a centennial of ups and downs, making national rejuvenation a long and painful journey. Remaining true to the original aspiration is the foundation of the profound spiritual pursuit of the Chinese nation, which should also serve as a source of strength throughout your life journey. Whether you hit the bottom of your career, become frustrated with your life or constrained by various circumstances, I hope you will maintain your faith, stay true to your aspiration and conquer the darkness with indomitable determination. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
15 years ago, XJTLU was dubbed “the university with only one building”. But we seized the opportunity to reshape education and pursue our dream of leading the future. Throughout our journey, we encountered sunny days and stormy winds. It is our original aspiration of changing higher education in China and the world that has inspired those at XJTLU to continuously innovate with courage, strategy, wisdom and tenacity. We have overcome difficulties and kept growing with perseverance in this complex and uncertain world.
Dear graduates, rest assured that the darker the times, the more value people will recognise in you. With your courage you can light up a candle. With your wisdom you can pierce the darkness. With your dreams you can connect communities. With your success you can harmonize the world.
I expect to see the light of wisdom in your eyes.
The pandemic has rapidly impacted and reshaped the world, leaving mankind with a society in which Uncertainty, Ambiguity, Complexity and Changeability (UACC) have become the norm. To make changes and lead in the future, we should first complete a transformation of mindset from the familiar mode of thinking in the relatively simple and stable times to a new one which will help us survive in the context of UACC. I often refer to it as HeXie Mindset.
The basic logic of HeXie Mindset is, first of all, to have a clear understanding of one’s life and career position (vision and mission) in the context of UACC. The core objectives should then be set and key tasks identified for each individual stage (HeXie Theme). Through dual rationality, one pays attention to the support of scientific systems such as institutions, processes and tools (Xie Principle), while using policies, culture and emotions to create a humanistic environment (He Principle). Finally, working toward a vision, one optimises and evolves dynamically based on the HeXie Theme at each stage (HeXie Coupling). No one has the crystal ball to predict the future, but HeXie Mindset can help you adapt to a future-oriented mindset, while integrating the wisdom of the East and West to find the theme of each stage that meets new trend and needs, so that you can move forward steadily.
To be more specific, facing UACC, we should change our perspectives and be optimistic. Since we can't predict the future, why don't we grab onto what is constant? For example, the academic degree may lose its value, so the real competitive edge lies in your ability to formulate a clear way to position yourself (vision and mission), a clear set of interests, the social values derived from developing such interests (HeXie Theme), high degree of aptitude, the right attitude towards life and the right behavioural patterns, as well as the ability to maintain lifelong learning (Double Rationality). With such well-defined goals, you will no longer be anxious. Instead you will be immersed in the journey of intelligent actions (dynamic optimisation and evolution) so that you will always have an advantage in the world of UACC and lead in the future.
I hope that you will find a path of your own.
History has proven time and time again that the path you choose determines your destiny. In a world full of opportunities resulting from radical changes, there is no lack of hard-working people. However, only by choosing a path which fits one's original aspiration and talent can one get over the stress of involution, peer pressure and conventional values, and blaze a unique trail to achieve success in one’s career and life. Graduation has brought you to a crossroad in your life and presents you with more diverse choices. I hope you can all walk on your own path with Hexie Mindset and confidence. As Zheng Mengyao, an outstanding graduate of XJTLU, said, “There are hundreds of paths in life and you don’t have to cram yourself into one mould.”
It is not easy to choose and stay on a unique path. You will find ideals and reality constantly in conflict. All you have to do is to explore, contemplate and balance so you can keep innovating, transforming and upgrading.
Let me give you an example. As China marches on the road to national rejuvenation in the era of endless challenges and increasing risks, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, “At present, China is in the best development period since modern times and the world is undergoing major changes unprecedented in a century, which are both intertwined and interdependent.” In the United Nations, China proposed to “build a community of shared future and achieve win-win and shared benefits”. China has rid itself of the small-circle and zero-sum thinking, relying on our wisdom to explore the path which promotes peace, development and civilisation, and win support from people around the world.
Another example is XJTLU. As an educational explorer and reformer, in the face of UACC we view these changes and challenges as rare opportunities to develop. In the past 15 years, we have constantly reflected on education, reshaped teaching, redefined universities, abandoned the short cut of emulating the experiences of others, and chosen to embark on a unique path that is future-oriented, integrating the wisdom of East and West. From research-led education for cultivating international professional elites (XJTLU 1.0) and Syntegrative Education for cultivating elites and leaders in new industries (XJTLU 2.0), to an innovative education ecosystem which is future-oriented, platform-building, technology-empowering and symbiotic (XJTLU 3.0), XJTLU has been bold enough to walk on a unique path with solid steps. We have turned our ideas into reality and become the leader in the realm of Sino-foreign cooperative universities. In the Times Higher Education’s Asia University Rankings 2021, XJTLU emerged as a dark horse and was positioned 35th among the 91 universities in Mainland China which participated in this ranking.
Dear students, now it's your turn! I hope that you will shoulder the weight of your mission and embrace the golden opportunity that the evolving world has to offer. Never forget why you started in the first place and strive to be someone of value to mankind and society. I also hope that you will continue to sharpen your mindset and cultivate your ability to face the challenges of UACC. Identify a path forward that shapes your own growth trajectory, so that one day you will turn from a light boat into a colossal ship that sets sail against the stormy waves, and transform your tender flaps into iron wings and travel amidst lightning and thunder.
My best wishes to you all! May your life be blessed with excitement and opportunities!