In 1978, I returned to Beijing for the first time since I fled to Hong Kong some 30 years ago. The nation was beginning to implement economic reforms and opening policies. I remember making a special request to visit Peking University because of my firm belief that for a country to sustain robust growth, it must produce the well-educated people needed to achieve cultural, technological and commercial success.
In 1980, when I first inspected this site, it was still barren. During the course of its development, Shantou University has had to overcome many difficulties. With the support and concerted efforts of everyone, the campus was finally completed, and the establishment of the medical college and the affiliated hospitals followed thereafter. Now, Shantou University has built a solid foundation, training highly skilled people for the benefit of the Shantou area and the rest of the nation.
Today, our country is on track for continued strong growth. China is reaching out to the world, and the world is reaching out to China. Looking over the past century, every country has had its share of triumphs and failures. Yet through it all, peace and progress remain a common hope among all peoples. The roles you will play in the coming century will be very important, because in order to maintain long-term stability and economic growth, it is not enough to simply inject capital and increase manual labor. It is necessary to develop new technologies and to broaden our base of knowledge to raise productivity. The key factor is to draw on your experience and to apply your new-found knowledge in your everyday lives. You will all need to develop up to your full potential and contribute to our nation’s progress in your own ways.
I hope all the students present today will treasure all that you have. Seize this opportunity to learn and to develop a good moral character. I know students upon their graduation will sometimes say, “We are entering society now. We are starting new lives now.” The truth is, the development of your character begins while you are still in school. Honesty, diligence, motivation, and compassion are immutable qualities in life. My own life experience tells me that if a person is to contribute to his people and his country, he must possess the aforementioned qualities. There is no other way.
Shantou University is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Over the years, I have devoted much of my time, energy and resources to its development. Along the way, we faced many difficulties. There was even a rumour in 1983 that a political organization had made me a target of assassination because of my support for education in the mainland. These threats and obstacles did not deter me from making education and medical care my life’s work.
Over the past decade, I have contributed over $1.2 billion to Shantou University. Besides giving money, I also attend every University Council Meeting. Even though my itinerary is very tight each time, I insist on participating in the student/teacher seminars and by understanding their difficulties, try to find ways to help them resolve issues. In addition, I often meet with overseas scholars to gain insight into the latest developments at overseas institutions. I hope that in the not-too-distant future, when the time is right, Shantou University can establish links with overseas counterparts and benefit from their experience and expertise.
For Shantou University to maintain its long-term development, it must have a steady source of income beyond my lifetime. That is why I have decided to donate the total cost and proceeds from the Shantou Citiplace project as a development fund for Shantou University. I support education and medical care because it is my life’s work, and not because I long for public praise. All my efforts will have been worth it if I can help China develop talented people who can in turn help our nation prosper.