An international English speaking competition aimed at helping youths from diverse backgrounds gain a deeper understanding of each other's countries and cultures through language and cultural exchanges was held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province over the weekend.
The Belt and Road Youth English Speaking Competition and the China Daily "21st Century Cup" International English Speaking Competition, jointly held by China Daily, the Hangzhou government and the English-Speaking Union, attracted 31 students from 200 countries and regions.
Themes of prepared speeches for contestants were "let us be true to one another" and "the great truth is simple".
Participants were inspired to share their points of view on a shared future and promote communication through competition and exchanges in response to the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, according to organizers.
Nicol Yong Jia Jia from Malaysia emerged as champion and Chen Qiyu from China was first runner-up in the final held at the Hangzhou International Expo Center on Sunday.
Weng Tiehui, vice-minister of education; Zhu Guoxian, publicity chief of Zhejiang province; Zhou Jiangyong, Party secretary of Hangzhou; and Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily, presented the awards to the winners.
Qu Yingpu, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily, said that young people hold the key to the enhancement of people-to-people ties, and in this competition, young contestants shared their stories about the Belt and Road and China's new era.
"Thanks to concerted international efforts by many over the past five years, the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative is becoming a reality and already delivering real results and benefits to people," Qu said.
"By co-hosting the competition in order to build a new platform for deep and candid exchanges between young people in both China and the BRI countries and regions, we hope they can contribute their vision and wisdom to pursuing the BRI and building a community with a shared future," he said.
Qi Xiaohu, publicity chief of the Communist Party of China Hangzhou committee, said that as a pivotal city in the BRI, Hangzhou has carried out economic and trade collaborations and people-to-people exchanges with more than 200 countries, regions and international organizations involved in the BRI.
"The competition, which attracted more than 200 young foreigners to gather for dialogues between civilizations, is like spice seeds on the ancient Silk Road, which spreads the fragrance of culture into the distance and makes the awareness of a shared future for mankind more deeply rooted in people's hearts," he said.
Lord Paul Boateng, English-Speaking Union chairman, said that the BRI requires a deeper understanding of each other's countries and that comes from not only through the study of books but also young people relating to each other in conversation and engaging in cultural exchanges.
"And therefore we encourage exchanges, in which people come together from different nations and traditions of belief across the seas, by recognizing that there are things that bond us together with utilizing a shared language," he said.
Yong from Malaysia said that the competition helped the youths from different countries break the ice, and also opened up her eyes to a new world. "Through the competition, I was able to speak to people from countries, such as Mauritius and Hungary, for the very first time, and we had such meaningful conversations of each other's cultures throughout the past days of staying together," said Yong, a final-year student at St. Joseph's Institution International School in Malaysia.
Xia Peng, a judge in the competition and champion of the 2005 International Public Speaking Competition, said he is proud that an international stage for such competitions has been developed in China, and it also corresponds with the site of the G20 Hangzhou Summit in 2016. "Competition organizers are taking the initiative to tell China's stories to the world and are responding to the spirit of the times that China is embracing the world and following through on opening-up on a higher level," he said.
China Daily 21st Century English Education Media initiated the "21st Century Cup" National English Speaking Competition in 1996, and contestants expanded to range from kindergartners to college graduates. This year was the first time the competition was developed around an international theme.