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Coronavirus outbreak viewed as chance to boost global understanding

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-23 09:40

Some high school graduates in China preparing to study at overseas universities hope to foster more communication with their foreign peers to improve mutual understanding between people from different countries and backgrounds.

The graduates said the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spawned cases of prejudice, resentment and ignorance, is an unprecedented opportunity to reshape global mutual trust and reliance for future generations.

Zhang Xiao, from Shanghai, starts bachelor's degree studies at the University of Tokyo in September. He said what he is looking for most in addition to academic learning is ending prejudice and misunderstanding between people from China and Japan through his own words and actions.

In recent years, he has traveled to Japan for a number of exchange programs, and felt that people-to-people communication between the two countries was "extremely friendly and heartwarming".

"In Japan, I will explore news about China in both traditional and social media, and explain to my Japanese teachers and schoolmates our mindset and intentions," said Zhang, who will major in environmental science.

Dai Shixuan, a 17-year-old from Shanghai, said she and a friend launched a WeChat account to inform people at home and overseas about efforts to fight the spread of the virus in the city during the peak of the outbreak.

They talked to the public-including express delivery couriers, food market employees and community workers-to highlight the efforts made to keep the city functioning during the outbreak.

They also published videos on international social media platforms and received overseas comments hailing the action taken in Shanghai.

"Such efforts remind us that the younger generation should think about what it can do to provide a voice for humankind and how it can influence others in a variety of ways," said Dai, who comes from a family of medical workers and wants to be a doctor.

She said she traveled to the Netherlands at the end of last year for the Model United Nations conference in The Hague, which was attended by young representatives from around the world.

The event included a movie night, at which a recently completed documentary by a French director about the Belt and Road Initiative was shown.

"Teenagers from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany and Arab countries showed a keen interest in the documentary. They wondered what the situation in China is really like, what kind of role the BRI can play in the world and how it will influence them," she said.

Mao Yingsu, from Shanghai, who has received study offers from Oxford University in the UK and the University of Pennsylvania in the US, said the pandemic has made people realize that no one and no nation can be an "isolated island".

"Many social issues in the world, including international situations, will affect us all, no matter whether we care about them or not. The pandemic is making the younger generation believe that it must pay more attention to such issues and the way we think about them," Mao said.

She added that she will either major in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford or social sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Both institutions attracted her, as they may offer a new perspective and mentality for her to observe the world.

Mao added that she expects her studies to help her form views when a significant incident happens, enabling her to better understand the world and contribute to social progress.

Due to the pandemic, both the overseas universities have announced a combination of online and offline learning for the upcoming academic year, Mao said, but the situation regarding visas and international flights remains uncertain.

She said she will decide which university to attend based on the spread of the virus in the US and the UK and local social conditions.

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