China-Malaysia Youth Exchange and Fellowship Programme, China (2018)

Post-Programme Report of China-Malaysia Youth Exchange & Fellowship Programme (October 23-30, 2018)

The Power of Youths

The friendships and connections made from this inaugural fellowship programme is invaluable and I would not have wanted these two weeks to be spent in any other way. The clear blue skies in Fujian and the sunbeam resting on my shoulders – I can still recall every place, lecture and conversation.

By Low Yeh Cher

This reflection recaps the China-Malaysia Youth Exchange and Fellowship Programme in Fujian, in October 2018. Above all, my gratitude to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia for their sponsorship, the Fujian Provincial People’s Government for co-organising and the secretariat, CREATE. In total, there were 32 youth delegates from Malaysia, 17 young officers (under age 45) and 12 student delegates from China. During our visit, we also met youth delegates from the Philippines at Xia Men (厦门) exhibition hall.

Outcomes: Better Understanding and Stronger Bonds

A significant fruitful outcome is strengthened mutual understanding on the foreign policies of Malaysia and China, cultural appreciation, exposure and affinity between youths from China and Malaysia. Among participants, our bonds grew strong and we promised to visit each other’s country again in the near future. A successful outcome of the fellowship programme is indeed frequent visits from both countries – and this would strengthen the bilateral relationship.

In a discussion about how youth from Malaysia and China can contribute to the bilateral relationship, a key question would be: What are the important elements that youth should possess? Above all, the most critical and significant element is mutual understanding. This encompasses knowledge of diplomatic history, cultural differences, and familiarity of socio-political developments in both China and Malaysia. An understanding of diplomatic history brings awareness toward the context of how this bilateral relationship was formed and has evolved throughout the years. This was highlighted as a concern of the youths and an intention to work in tandem with the efforts of politicians, government officers, business elites and non- official organizations, who build up the positive engagement between the two countries.

Three Highlights from the Programme

This programme gave me and fellow Malaysians who were part of the delegation to grasp real situations in China through first hand interaction. Our visits to local universities, a start-up incubation centre, exhibition halls, historical places and lectures on various topics have enriched our knowledge on China’s current development.

The participation of young officials from Fujian province is the highlight of this programme. Not only did Malaysian representatives benefit from the officers’ expertise and insights in respective fields, China’s student representatives have equally benefitted from interactions with them. An official participant from Public Security Bureau (公安局) shared his thoughts on Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan issues. His insights and in-depth analysis on these issues are valuable for Malaysians to understand China’s domestic politics. I now better understand China’s political system, functions of different government bodies, and am aware of how these young officers work the extra miles to serve their nation.

In addition, I was fortunate to join the exclusive interaction with Malaysia’s Deputy Defence Minister, Liew Chin Tong. The interactive and intense discussion between Deputy Minister Liew and the Deputy Director General of Fujian’s Foreign Affairs Office, Li Hong, enlightened young participants to re-assess issues such as relations between Big State and Smaller States, how and to what extent a big power like China influences its neighbouring countries. This meaningful and in-depth discussion strengthened the mutual understanding of foreign policies and perspectives for both parties. The lecture given by Mr Li regarding China’s foreign policies was also comprehensive and informative. Chinese officials are keen share their knowledge and comprehend Malaysia’s systems and situation. I was impressed by brilliant young minds from China and Malaysia.

Second, our visits in Fujian were well-planned for participants to be exposed to the unique history of every city we visited. QuanZhou (泉州) impressed me the most with its long history serving as one of the major ports in ancient times and still remains culturally vibrant. Our visit to QingJing Mosque (清净寺) impressed on me that the local authority will carry on its inclusive and harmonious policies. Our counterparts from China also visited Sarawak to experience the rainforest and diverse society that Malaysians live in. This cultural exposure has instilled a sense of value and cultivated appreciation and inclusivity among the participants.

Third, the bonding between the participants grew strong. Throughout the journey, we visited historical sites, learned new knowledge, exchanged ideas and lived together. Although time was short, the strong bonds forged lay the foundation to further the friendship into business or official cooperationsin years to come. This connection is a valuable asset of China-Malaysia relations. Participants in this programme are top in their fields and this memorable and unforgettable programme not only enhances the people-to-people ties between Malaysia and China, but also nourishes more avenues of cooperation between private sectors and government levels.

To conclude, this programme has done a marvelous job bringing young leaders from China and Malaysia to network and get to know each other better. A strengthened mutual understanding of policies and sociocultural differences is a seed that will blossom into something fruitful and beautiful in the foreseeable future. In other words, this is the power of youths. All the successes between China and Malaysia of tomorrow are in the Young Leaders’ hands of today.

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