“More than 5,000 Chinese students will graduate in Cuba between 2006 and 2001,” said Chinese President Hu Jintao during a visit to the seaside Tarará neighborhood in Havana; the visiting guest was accompanied by Cuban President Raúl Castro.
During a warm encounter with some of the Chinese students, President Hu Jintao noted that Fidel Castro himself, along with Raúl Castro, planned and promoted the educational exchange program, which had taken great care to see to the living and studying conditions of the young Chinese on the island.
Hu Jintao expressed the gratitude of the Chinese government and people to the Cuban people and authorities, as well as to the teachers of the Asian students.
“This is the largest exchange program in the field of education since the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Cuba. It is also an example of the development of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” Hu Jintao said at a political-cultural ceremony held at the facility where 1,130 Chinese students live and study.
Cuba was the first Latin American country to receive students from China, and is the nation that now educates the largest number of them.
In his speech, Hu Jintao mentioned how three of students from the Chinese province of Sichuan joined a Cuban medical team that travelled to China to participate in rescue and assistance operations following the earthquake that shook the region in May. He noted how they also took part in reconstruction work at the affected areas.
The Chinese president said this is a good example of how people can serve their nation when they are committed to their country and have the skills to do so.
Hu Jintao encouraged the students to take advantage of this opportunity and to acquire the scientific and cultural knowledge they need to be useful for their country.
Equally, he called on them to demonstrate the spirituality of the new generation of Chinese youth and to honor their best traditions through respect and solidarity.
“I hope you can become messengers of the strengthening friendship between the two peoples,” said the president to about 330 Chinese students participating in the political-cultural event. They represented the more than 1,900 nationals being educated on the island, who are distributed between western Havana, the Faculty of Medical Sciences in Jagüey Grande, Matanzas Province; and in the Santiago Figueroa School, in the southern Havana municipality of San Antonio de los Baños.
Homage to China
Raúl Castro closed the meeting, and to the surprise of all began to sing a song in Chinese that he learned in his youth. Meanwhile Hu Jintao signed the visitors’ book as proof of his distinguished presence in the educational center.
The Cuban leader explained that these were the only words that he knew in Chinese, and that he had learned them in Vienna, when he attended a youth congress in 1953, at the height of the Cold War. There, he had the opportunity to mix with the large Chinese delegation that attended the event.
“Since they arrived a few days beforehand, we begin us to teach each other songs, and that is where the only words in Chinese that I know came from.”
“I don’t have the memory that Fidel has, but I still remember this song,” said Raúl Castro, who urged those present to accompany him in singing the tune; several youngsters joined in.
The audience, identifying with Raúl Castro’s tune, loudly applauded the Cuban president’s initiative, who explained that that it was in homage to the performance of the young Guang Xilu, who was accompanied by a guitar duet and a flute in a song composed by students Zhang Zhu and Bie Geng. In flowing Spanish, the group recited the poem De qué callada manera, by Cuban national poet Nicolás Guillén. In addition, a choir of another twenty-eight students interpreted La Guantanamera.
Building bridges of friendship
The youth present at the event represented the different aspects of the program, which includes intensive Spanish, language improvement; and various university courses in Spanish, medicine, nursing, tourism, humanities education and psychology.
Rubén Zardoya, rector of the University of Havana, spoke about the human quality of the Chinese students. “We have been able to see that they are not only intelligent and happy, but also studious, responsible, self-willed, disciplined and endowed with a great sense of personal honor. We learn from them as much or even more than what they learn from us,” he said.
What talking about the mission entrusted by Fidel Castro of building up ties of friendship with China, Zardoya said there are no more solid links than the ones that are built on the basis of principles, culture and shared language.
He also explained that Cuba and China are working together in the creation of the Confucio Institute of the University of Havana; this will be a center to promote Chinese language and culture throughout Latin America.
Since September 2006, 2,544 Chinese students have come to Cuba to study Spanish.
“Our doors will always be open. I hope the Chinese youth will continue knocking them,” Zardoya said.