OTTAWA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Alumni of the Canada-China Scholars' Exchange Program (CCSEP) and officials from both countries gathered at the Chinese embassy here on Wednesday to celebrate the program on its 50th anniversary.
Giving a welcome speech, Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu said the program stands as a testament to the development of people-to-people exchanges between China and Canada. Cong said the alumni have become bridges for China-Canada exchanges in their fields.
"I hope this program will bring more benefits to our two peoples, especially young people," the ambassador said.
Jean-Phillippe Tachdijian, executive director of the international education division at Global Affairs Canada, said the Canadian government truly believes that international learning opportunities are key to building people-to-people ties and increasing understanding.
"As a conduit to promote academic collaboration in various fields, the CCSEP also provides a positive tool for an enhanced Canada-China relationship and cooperation," said Tachdijian. "We look forward to working with our Chinese partners to ensure that the CCSEP will continue to foster a greater understanding between Canada and China."
Jacques Fremont, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa, also said the program helps to foster a relationship between Canada and China.
"This is very, very important," Fremont said. "We are building the future with this program."
Paul Brennan, who was one of the first group of 20 students on the program to study the Chinese language at the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute in 1973 (currently Beijing Foreign Studies University), called for more people to take part in the program.
"If ever there was a time for people to understand each other, particularly young people, to be able to go beyond the politics and the disagreements, and engage in people-to-people exchanges ... now is the time," said Brennan.
Mary Udemezue, a Canadian student who just returned from studying at Wuhan University for one year, shared her experiences.
"I recommend everybody to go to China at least one time or twice. Actually, I went twice. It's very welcoming. They're all very friendly. The food is great. I traveled to so many different provinces. Everyone was just really nice to me and they just told me about their individual cities as I went along. It was a great experience altogether," she said.
Tina Hu, a Canadian student who spent this summer in Beijing, shared her study experience. "They were very receptive to alternative perspectives and they were able to facilitate a very respectful discussion on very sensitive topics."
"I would definitely recommend it for anybody who is studying international relations as I am, anything of political science. Even just to learn about the culture and the language in China," Hu said.
The Chinese and the Canadian governments agreed to establish the CCSEP in 1973 to enhance mutual understanding.
Over the past five decades, more than 1,100 students and scholars have studied or conducted research in China or Canada, while nearly 380 Canadian students and scholars have studied in China since the beginning of the 21st century. ■