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African scholar narrates 7 years experience in China and correspondences he exchanged with President Xi

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By Shi Yuanhao, Bai Ziwei, People’s Daily

Joseph Olivier Mendo’o, a Cameroonian student studying in China and also head of the African Youth Delegation in China, found the year 2021 truly memorable, as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote back to him twice in the year.

Mendo’o is a PhD candidate at Peking University’s School of International Studies. In June last year, he and 44 other representatives of overseas students at the university wrote a letter to Xi to send their best wishes to the Communist Party of China (CPC) for the 100th anniversary of its founding.

In the letter, they conveyed the thoughts and experiences they have had while studying and living in China and expressed their appreciation of the achievements China has made under the CPC’s leadership, as well as their recognition of the CPC’s people-centered philosophy of development.

On June 21, 2021, Xi wrote back to them, encouraging them to gain a deeper understanding of the real China, share their ideas and experiences with more people, and play an active role in promoting friendship between the peoples of all countries.

Not long after that, Mendo’o, together with more than 30 other representatives of young foreign participants at the Global Young Leaders Dialogue (GYLD), a mechanism initiated by Chinese think tanks for the sharing of ideas and mutual learning among young people from different countries and fields, wrote a letter to Xi to congratulate the CPC on its 100th birthday.

Besides sharing their trips to and impressions of various parts of China, these young foreigners expressed their hope of serving as a bridge so as to better promote exchanges and communication between China and foreign countries.

On August 10, 2021, Xi sent a reply letter to these young people. In his letter, Xi encouraged them to further exchanges and mutual learning, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.

“The two letters from President Xi showed his care for foreign youths and earnest hope of us playing an active role in promoting people-to-people bonds. They have made us more eager to learn more about China,” said Mendo’o.

To see China as it is, Mendo’o has visited and carried out field investigations in many places across the country over the past seven years when he has studied and lived in China.

He has been to north China’s Shanxi province, southwest China’s Guizhou province, northwest China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region, southeast China’s Fujian province, and north China’s Hebei province, among many other regions, and gained first-hand knowledge about and a deeper understanding of the development and changes in the Chinese society.

During his trip to Shahao village, Xingxian county, Lyuliang city of Shanxi province, Mendo’o spent some time with the first Party secretary of the village, who was sent to assist the village with poverty alleviation, and understood what it was like to be a village official in China.

“The first secretary knows so well about every family, such as how many children a family has and which family lost a cow, which surprised me so much. And I learnt afterward that every first secretary in Chinese villages is familiar with the situation of local families and works hard to solve the difficulties in people’s lives just like the official I met,” Mendo’o recalled.

His experiences in Shanxi made Mendo’o know better about the CPC’s place in Chinese people’s hearts.

“During my visit to Jinggangshan city, east China’s Jiangxi province, an old man explained to me why Chinese people often say ‘follow the instructions and guidance of the Party’. He told me that the CPC has always maintained close ties with the people and followed a people-centered philosophy in all of its work, so the people naturally trust the Party,” Mendo’o told People’s Daily.  

Because of this experience in Jiangxi, Mendo’o has been particularly interested in China’s practice in poverty alleviation.

“All the 832 once impoverished counties in China have got rid of poverty, and nearly 100 million poor rural residents in the country have shaken off poverty. China has achieved the poverty eradication target set out in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ahead of schedule,” he said.

In order to dig deep into the great achievements to find out the secret of China’s success, Mendo’o read about China’s poverty alleviation policies and learned about the country’s relevant measures, such as the relocation of impoverished residents to more habitable places and the “pairing assistance” program under which developed provinces and cities provide assistance for less developed ones.

Through frequent visits across the country, Mendo’o has witnessed the tremendous changes in mountainous areas of China.

“In Guizhou, I saw bridges built among high mountains make travel easier for local people and help them embrace a better life; in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, I learnt that the country has led local people in wind prevention and sand fixation endeavors, which has effectively reversed desertification and achieved a win-win situation for economic growth and environmental governance,” he said.

“China’s development experience is of global significance. The country’s fight against poverty and people-centered development philosophy has offered precious inspiration to other countries, especially African countries,” Mendo’o noted.

At first Mendo’o learned Chinese merely out of interest, and now he has become a China hand. Over the past years, he has engaged more and more in the efforts to enhance the friendship between Chinese and African youths.

He has co-founded the China-Africa Youth Federation with his friends and has frequently taken part in exchange activities for Chinese and African youths like the China-Africa Young Leaders Forum held by the International Department of the Central Committee of the CPC.

“I’m helping African youths get a better understanding of China. And I hope more Chinese youths will know better about Africa,” Mendo’o said.

Noting that young people play a critical role in strengthening the friendly ties between China and Africa, Mendo’o stressed that he is willing to continue making contributions to promoting the friendship between the Chinese and African people.

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