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US students invited by Xi to embark on China trip

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-03 04:52

TACOMA - The campus of Lincoln High School in Tacoma of Washington State was brimming with warmth and enthusiasm on Tuesday as the students who will embark on a journey to China for an exchange program bade farewell to their peers.

Inspirited and galvanized by the performances of the school drum band, the audience, from witnesses of people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States, to the youths who will soon visit China, became keener to cement the bond between the youths of the two nations.

In September 2015, President Xi Jinping visited Lincoln High School during his first state visit to the United States as Chinese president and invited young Americans to visit China.

From cordial meetings to correspondence, the precious moments of Xi's exchanges and interactions with the students and school staff over the years have brought back fond memories among them, sowing the seeds of friendship which have taken root and sprouted and are now flourishing.


Montserrat Romero-Rocha, a 12th-grade student, is one of 10 Lincoln High School students who will leave for China in March.

Montserrat comes from a modest immigrant family, and traveling abroad was a distant thing for her.

"I feel really grateful and in shock! I still haven't fully processed that this is reality but I am so happy regardless."

This is the second time luck has befallen her family.

In 2016, her elder sister Abranna Romero-Rocha was one of the 100 students who got a chance to visit China. Montserrat still reminisced about the ecstatic moment when her mother learned of the exciting news.

"Beautiful Chinese poem books still sit on my shelves. The effects of that trip have rippled down through me. Her story also sparks nostalgia and hope in me," Montserrat said.

Talking about her plan for the exchange program in China, Montserrat voiced hope that she will learn more, explore more, and make greater progress.

At Lincoln High School, many students share the same wish as Montserrat -- to observe China with their own eyes, listen to China with their own ears, and measure China with their own footsteps.

They have expressed their perception and expectation of China and Chinese culture:

"China has always been a place that I have admired and been a dream of mine to go to."

"I believe that the insights gained from a firsthand encounter with China would not only broaden my perspective but also contribute to my personal growth."

"China seems like a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity. I am genuinely intrigued by the prospect of witnessing these facets firsthand."


"If I could say anything to President Xi, I'd really just want to thank him for planting the seed of relation between Tacoma and China." said Montserrat.


In the eyes of Patrick Erwin, then principal of Lincoln High School, it was such an honor for the teachers and students to receive Xi's visit in 2015.

Citing a Chinese saying that "Read 10,000 books and travel 10,000 miles," the Chinese president voiced hope that more young Americans will visit China so as to have a glimpse of a real China in a multi-dimensional and comprehensive manner and build more bridges of close affinity between the two peoples.

During the ceremony on Tuesday, Erwin especially recalled a memorable moment of Xi's visit to the school. During his stay, Xi asked if the school had many students who traveled abroad, and Erwin admitted that there were not many.

To Erwin's great surprise, in 2016, students from Lincoln High School were invited by Xi to visit China as his guests.

In 2016, 118 teachers and students from the school were invited to visit Hong Kong, Fuzhou, Chengdu, Beijing and other places in China.

Among them, more than one-fifth of the students flew for the first time in their lives.

Erwin felt that this was a life-changing opportunity for everyone.

Before the Chinese Lunar New Year in 2021, Erwin sent a letter to Xi, briefing him on Lincoln High School's exchanges with China and extending New Year greetings.

Erwin has witnessed the youths of the two countries forging lifelong friendships and looking forward to a closer bond between the two peoples by strengthening student exchanges and educational cooperation.

In 2023, the U.S.-China Youth and Student Exchange Association in Washington State, not least students from Lincoln High School, and friendly people from all walks of life wrote to Xi.

In his reply, Xi said he hopes more youths from China and the United States can get to know each other, move forward together, become generational ambassadors of bilateral friendship, and continuously inject impetus into the development of bilateral ties.

John Hines, deputy mayor of Tacoma and an alumnus of Lincoln High School, told reporters that he was glad that American students had the opportunity to communicate, establish contacts and broaden their horizons in China. "It is one thing to read or hear about China. Only by visiting China can understanding be formed, and learning from each other can promote the future development of bilateral relations."

Ron Chow, co-chairman of the U.S.-China Youth and Student Exchange Association, said, "We hope that is a trip of a lifetime."

Richard Murray, mayor of Steilacoom, Washington State, recalled that his predecessor Ron Lucas, who had dedicated 20 years to growing relations with China, told him, during his last days, "to take care of our relationship with China. How important it was."


During a meeting in November last year, Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden laid out a future-oriented "San Francisco vision" with a special focus on jointly promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

In his speech at a welcome dinner by friendly organizations in the United States, Xi said that China is ready to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years to increase exchanges between the two peoples, especially between the youths.

Since the beginning of this year, people-to-people exchanges have become more vibrant with youth exchange programs at the forefront, injecting a steady stream of youthful vitality into the friendship between the two peoples.

Karl Hoseth, principal of Lincoln High School, said they're "honored and thrilled to have ten students that will be going in March and excited to continue this partnership with China for now and for many years to come."

Fu Bo, deputy secretary-general of the China Education Association for International Exchange, said that in the future, China will set up a YES program -- the Young Envoys Scholarship to provide more high-quality platforms and channels for American students to come to China for exchange programs between schools, short visits, summer schools, winter camps, and even to study for credits or degrees.

Montserrat and her classmates are looking forward to the trip across the Pacific in spring.

"I am inclined to believe that the strongest connection found is with its people," the American girl said earnestly.

"I am immensely proud to be a part of the San Francisco vision orientated towards the future, which is so cool," she added.

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