World-class Institute for Advanced Study:
the Great Responsibility of the Great Age
A translation from the speech by Prof. Shi Yigong at the Inaugural Ceremony of Westlake Institute for Advanced Study
Honorable Vice President Han Qide,
Honorable Governor Che Jun,
Distinguished Leaders and Guests,
Today, December 10, 2016, is destined to be a memorable day. Westlake Institute for Advanced Study, the first private, small-scaled yet comprehensive institute in history for advanced study covering science, engineering, biology, medicine, etc. as well as dedicating to securing a place among its world-class counterparts, is officially established near the beautiful West Lake. Entrusted with expectations from all communities of the society and the dream of a generation, it officially sets sail.
Boasting a long history of over 5,000 years, the Chinese nation once was in a leading position in the world as to the development and progress of human civilization. However, after the renaissance and industrial revolution of Europe, the world’s science and technology center was shifted to Europe and North America successively. For the 110 years before 1949, China had been suffering foreign invasion, leading to constant turmoil on Chinese land and the deep depress of Chinese people. During that time, China, with more than one fifth of the world population, failed to make further contributions to science and technology and human civilization. China indeed lagged behind.
But even in the darkest period, there were still Chinese people who were actuated by high ideals and never gave up rejuvenating the country through science and education. Yung Wing had dedicated his whole life to pushing forward the plan of sending children to study in the United States. In 1895, the first modern university of China – Beiyang University, was born in Tianjin with its first president assumed by the 36-year-old Cai Shaoji, who was once among the first batch of children studying in the United States. In the following twenty years, a number of modern high education institutions, including the former Peking University and Tsinghua University were set up, showing glimmers of hope of salvation through science and education. However, whether in the late Qing Dynasty whose fate could not be changed by the Westernization Movement and Reform, or in the early Republic of China when its people suffered nasty warfare, China was weak then and couldn’t even save itself, let alone became independent and strong, making the efforts of salvation through the same extremely difficult.
Nonetheless, the predecessors never gave up. During the 1930s and 1940s, the most difficult times for the Anti-Japanese War, in the National Southwest Associated University, there appeared the most outstanding scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners, Chen-Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, as well as the scientists who had made a series of breakthroughs in scientific research, especially those who had made profound contributions to the making of atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and artificial satellite, including Deng Jiaxian, Guo Yonghuai, Zhu Guangya, Wang Xiji, Chen Fangyun, Tu Shou’e, and other scientists.
After the founding of People’s Republic of China, especially for the past forty years since the reform and opening up, Chinese people have been working diligently and achieved miraculous economic development. In the second ten years of the twenty-first century, Chinese economic aggregate ranked the second in the world, reaching the culmination of modern history in terms of China’s comprehensive status in the world. In the context of national peace and prosperity as well as economic development, China’s higher education and scientific research has made considerable progress, making its debut on the world stage. The sustainable development of China, however, is faced with serious challenges – the overall level of basic research still lags behind the developed countries and the core technology for high-tech development is seriously deficient, each will hinder China’s future development.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has become the common goal. This is an era of excitement, and also an era filled with challenges. For us, it is a unprecedented but everlasting opportunity to develop our country through science and education. It is our responsibility to rejuvenate the country through the same, which is also the ideal, for which we vow to fight for a lifetime.
Having been teaching and doing research in domestic first-class universities and institutes for years, we feel the vitality of the public university. We have been constantly exploring on the existing basis of various education systems and scientific research models that are all-embracing and suitable for China’s through a variety of useful attempts. Based on a comprehensive survey on the world’s modern science and education development, it can be seen that private universities including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and a number of other famous private schools, have shown great strength because of their flexibilities and diversities. They have not only cultivated many Nobel laureates, generations of outstanding scholars, but also become an engine for sci-tech intensive economic development, playing a significant role in the development of global economy as well as science and technology. Chinese private higher education schools have been booming in recent years, but most of them mainly focus on the vocational training. We are missing the truly high-level talents cultivation in the field of advanced technology and the forefront of scientific research, which requires efforts of a generation and we must start now.
Since the reform and opening up, nearly five million students have studied abroad, among whom, about two million have returned. They hold tightly the dream of revitalizing the nation through science and education, and vow to serve their motherland and the people. To build a world-class private university is their way to realize this dream. Since May of 2015, Chen Shiyi, Pan Jianwei, Rao Yi, Qian Yingyi, Zhang Hui, Wang Jian, and I, as well as thousands of experts listed in Thousand Talents Plan and many other science and education professionals have worked together, devoting to create a small but comprehensive research-focused world-class private university out of Westlake Institute for Advanced Study in a relatively short period of time.
We hope that after ten or twenty years, there will appear the Westlake University in Hangzhou, China, a private institution of higher education built with Chinese characteristics and well respected by the world. Here, cultivated by the world’s most eminent scientists, there will be the most outstanding young talents working in the most advanced basic and applied research, exploring the best kind of scientific research and education system and mechanism suitable for Chinese conditions, driving and supporting the sustainable development of Chinese high technology and making contributions to the world! At that time, a large number of Chinese entrepreneurs with passions and high ideas will not only show their generosity by aiding financially the Westlake University, but also support other scientists and educators in launching a number of other world-class private research institutes of its kind, joining together with all existing excellent public universities in creating a new chapter in the revival of the Chinese nation.
Founding the Westlake Institute for Advanced Study is a bold move. But we believe history will prove that this is significant and beneficial to both our country and nation. With the support from the government, the generous financial aids from a large number of entrepreneurs, and the wisdom and efforts from the like-minded experts included in the Thousands Talents Plan, the Westlake Institute for Advanced Study will become one of the world’s most influential institutes of science and technology, laying a solid foundation for the establishment of Westlake University!
Today, entrusted with expectations from all communities of the society and the dream of a generation, the Westlake Institute for Advanced Study officially sets sail. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the government departments at all levels for their support, special thanks to the Ministry of Education, to the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province and Provincial Party Committee, to Hangzhou Municipal Government and Municipal Party Committee, to West Lake District Government and Party Committee. My thanks would also go to Zhejiang University, Tsinghua University, Peking University, University of Science and Technology of China, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Xi’an Jiaotong University, East China Normal University, Wuhan University, Nanjing Tech University, Southern University of Science and Technology, Nanjing University, Jilin University, Tianjin University, Central South University, ShanghaiTech University, University of Macau, Duke Kunshan University and other universities as well as institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, thank you all for your support. I also owe a special debt of gratitude to the Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Zhejiang Normal University, Zhejiang University of Science & Technology, Zhejiang University of Media and Communications, Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Zhejiang Shuren University, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou Normal University, Wenzhou-Kean University and China Jiliang University, thank you all for your support! There will be no Westlake Institute of Advanced Study without your great support.
We could not have this establishment ceremony today and the future development of Westlake Institute for Advanced Study without our like-minded generous donors. I want to show my special gratitude to Ms. Wu Yajun, the first major donor, and my special thanks to the six founding donors: Wang Donghui, Deng Feng, Wang Jianlin, Ge Hang, Huang Changhua and Ma Huateng. We were deeply moved by their commitment and dedication to education and their selfless generosity. I would also like to thank the experts from Thousand Talents Plan: Xiong Xiaoge, Ding Lieming, Gan Zhongxue, Zhang Hui, Yao Lijun, Huang Xiaoqing, Liu Jiayan, Zhang Lei, Zhang Dan, Fan Yuan, Zhou Zhen, Yao Naxin, Xu Jiasen, Yang Yunchun, and Hua Shaobing and other donors to the Westlake University, He Zeping, Chen Xiangming and Zhang Lei, they have all lived up to their commitment to education with actions.
Finally, I would especially like to thank the whole staff of the preparatory committee who have been starting their work empty-handed, groping their way forward for the past six hundred days and nights. You have given up holidays and family reunions to strive for a lofty ideal, marching towards the goal step by step. Thank you so much for your heroic efforts and your faith in our future!
There is still a long way to go, but eventually we shall together accomplish our mission!
Message from the Founding Dean
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