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[Youth Talk] Tan Jing Yong: Infusing Youthful Power into BRI


Tan Jing Yong, from Malaysia, is a junior student majoring in Information Management and Information System at the College of Management and Economics. He participated in the parallel activity of the ASEAN Exchange Week - "Know and Walk Guizhou" Silk Road Youth Exchange Plan held in Guiyang, Gui Zhou province in the summer and spoke on behalf of Tianjin University international students. He shared with us his thoughts on the Belt and Road Initiative to commemorate its tenth anniversary.

The article has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Tan Jing Yong: Infusing Youthful Power into BRI

I am Tan Jing Yong, from Malaysia, currently a junior student majoring in Information Management and Information System at Tianjin University. Two years ago, I embarked on the journey of building my dreams in China, a foreign country yet very familiar to a boy of Chinese descent.

This story begins in the time of my great-grandfather. In the early 19th century, due to the hardships of life at home, our ancestors from Feng Yuan Tang in Anxi, China’s Fujian province, decided to seek a livelihood in Nanyang. My great-grandfather was among them. From that point on, they worked and lived in Malaya (now known as Malaysia), eventually settling down and rooting themselves in this land. Despite this, our ancestors did not forget their identity, upholding the traditional virtues of the Chinese culture. To ensure the continued inheritance of Chinese culture and language by future generations, local clan associations and Chinese schools were gradually established through united efforts. Chinese education has been a cause consistently upheld by the Malaysian Chinese society. It is due to this persistence that present-day Malaysia stands as one of the places, outside of China, where Chinese culture and language have been most effectively preserved. If I were to describe the Malaysian Chinese community in one word, it would undoubtedly be "perseverance".

Tan Jing Yong (the boy in the middle) takes a photo with this fellow students in Guiyang.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The implementation of the initiative has brought new historical opportunities for international students studying in China. Since then, the number of students coming to study in China from countries and regions along the BRI has rapidly increased, attracting many Malaysian students as well. These participating countries in the Belt and Road Initiative have engaged in extensive cooperation in fields such as science, education, culture, healthcare, and people-to-people exchanges, solidifying the foundation of public opinions about the Initiative and strengthening societal ties. Additionally, the Chinese government provides abundant government scholarships each year, as well as establishing the Silk Road Special Scholarship to encourage international cultural and educational exchange, allowing students to bridge hearts and minds through these interactions. As President Xi stated, “Friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations.” My personal experience solidified my belief in this statement.

In 2020, schools were forced to turn to fully online classes due to Covid-19 in Malaysia. As high school seniors, my peers and I not only faced anxiety caused by the Unified Examination Certificate (a standardized high school-level examination in Malaysia that provides students with opportunities for further education), but were also daunted by the uncertainty of our future.

Tan Jing Yong speaks during the 2023 China ASEAN Education Cooperation Week.

The majority of my peer students shifted their aspirations of studying abroad to domestic institutions. It was evident that compared to previous years, the number of students choosing to study abroad significantly decreased. In spite of these challenges, I was drawn by the Belt and Road Initiative and decided to enroll in a Chinese university. As a Chinese descendant, I appreciate BRI for facilitating my dream to study and live in the birthplace of the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization where I could truly explore and learn about Chinese culture. China is the place where my dream comes true.

During this summer vacation of 2023, I traveled to several big cities in China, some of which left deep impressions on me. These include the Palace Museum in Beijing, the picturesque Guizhou and the West Lake Scenic Area in Hangzhou. The astonishing natural landscapes and profound cultural heritage deeply fascinated me. This dream-building journey has been ongoing for nearly two years, during which I have had the pleasure of getting to know many Chinese classmates and am grateful for the special care and patient guidance provided by teachers to international students. Unexpectedly, I also had the chance to meet numerous international students from various countries around the world, most of whom were from countries along the BRI. I have thoroughly enjoyed studying and growing together with my classmates here.

Currently, the "Belt and Road" initiative has entered a stage of high-quality development, requiring more comprehensive international talents to support it. Many international young people participated in the "Belt and Road" initiative, infusing youthful power into its active development and bringing new opportunities to global progress.

China and Malaysia are good neighbors and have built a cooperative partnership. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, and next year will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. On March 31st this year, our Prime Minister, Dato' Sri Anwar Ibrahim, delivered a public speech at Tsinghua University. He expressed strong agreement that students should travel abroad for exchanges or studies, as this expands their horizons and understanding of other regions. He also expressed the hope for more efforts to ensure mutual understanding between the people of China and Malaysia, promoting more exchanges.

As young scholars, we need to deeply comprehend the strategic significance of the "Belt and Road" initiative and embody its core principles in our practical actions. By studying the histories, cultures, languages, and more of both China and Malaysia, we can enhance mutual understanding and deepen friendship. Under the guidance of the "Belt and Road" initiative, enterprises from both countries require international talents who are familiar with the investment environment of the host country and possess understanding of their home country. International students studying in China not only possess knowledge of Chinese culture and society but are also familiar with their home country's language and culture, making them the talents needed for both countries to venture into the global arena. The "Belt and Road" initiative is precisely the platform for us to realize our personal career aspirations. With our professional knowledge, innovative thinking, and practical actions, we can contribute to infrastructure development, technological innovation, and more in both China and Malaysia. We shoulder the responsibility and mission to promote friendly cooperation between China and Malaysia, building a stronger bridge for friendship and contributing our youthful power to the "Belt and Road" initiative. Let us move forward together, writing a new chapter of cooperation between our two countries.

Here, I wish both China and Malaysia prosperity and happiness. Finally, I would like to share a Chinese proverb in Malay: "遇山一起爬,遇沟一起跨。"

"Bukit sama didaki, lurah sama dituruni."

Sekian,terima kasih.

Thank you so much.

By Tan Jing Yong

Edtior: Eva Yin