by Xinhua writer Sun Ding
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- "This is international friendship in action," Adam Foster, chairman of the Helen Foster Snow Foundation, said recently after receiving a reply letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"It is wonderful to see that President Xi acknowledges the special role people like Helen Foster Snow have played in the relationship of our two countries," Foster said in written responses to media outlets, including Xinhua. "The Helen Foster Snow Foundation and its important work has also received tremendous support from people across the United States and China."
CONTRIBUTOR TO CHINA'S REVOLUTION, CONSTRUCTION
Foster is a great-nephew of Helen Foster Snow, a Utah-born, late author and journalist known for her writings on the Communist Party of China (CPC) before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. She was once married to Edgar Snow, the first Western journalist to interview late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, and writer of the classic "Red Star Over China," which gives a rare and detailed account of the Chinese revolution in the 1930s.
Edgar and Helen Snow actively promoted the Chinese Gong He (Gung Ho) movement of industrial cooperatives, and played an important role in establishing the Shandan Peili School in China's Gansu Province, Xi wrote in the reply letter to Foster sent in late January.
Helen encouraged her friend Rewi Alley, a renowned social activist who helped build friendly relations between China and New Zealand, to establish the Peili School that helped underprivileged youths obtain an education, Foster said, adding Helen also traveled with Edgar throughout Southeast Asia, raising funds "for this important effort to be successful."
The year 2021 marked the 90th anniversary of Helen's arrival in China. Foster stressed that the letter from the foundation and the Foster family to Xi "was to thank the Chinese people for the way in which they have honored Helen's work during this past year, and in previous years as well."
"As a Foundation, we looked at our accomplishments over the last four years and decided it was important to emphasize the spirit of international friendship which Helen Foster Snow embodied," he said. "It was extremely important to Helen that people on both sides of the Pacific understand each other, despite our differences."
INFLUENTIAL LIFE, GREAT LEGACY
When Helen returned to the United States in the 1940s, she moved to the town of Madison in Connecticut. She spent the next 60 years of her life continuing the relationships she had developed in China, and wrote more than 60 books and manuscripts.
The Foster family were among some of the first visitors to China after the normalization of China-U.S. relations. Helen made two trips to China in the 1970s, and also received many Chinese visitors to her home in Connecticut, where she passed away in 1997.
Because of Helen's influence, many of her nieces and nephews traveled to China to continue these relationships, according to Foster. "Several of my cousins have spent time living in China to learn more about the culture, language, and people," he said. "The Foster family in the U.S. consider Helen's life and work as a precious legacy that will forever connect our family to the people of China."
The Chinese people, Xi said in the reply letter, bear in mind the contributions made by international friends, including the Snows, to China's revolution and construction, as well as their sincere friendship with the CPC and the Chinese people, adding that he highly appreciates the positive contributions made by the Helen Foster Snow family to the development of China-U.S. relations over the years.
Foster made it his "life's mission" to learn everything he could about Helen's life after returning to the United States from a trip to various sites of Helen and Edgar Snow's past in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, where there are many old revolutionary base areas, including the caves of Yan'an, the cradle of the Chinese revolution.
"I visited her collection of 11,000 photographs and 60 books and manuscripts at the library at Brigham Young University. I read her book Inside Red China about her visit to the caves of Yan'an, and Red Star Over China written by Edgar Snow," Foster recalled. "These books by two American journalists had a profound effect on me and helped me, as an American, to better understand the Chinese people."
PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGES MATTER
The Helen Foster Snow Foundation, a Utah-based non-profit organization, aims to preserve, promote and continue Helen's legacy of building bridges of understanding between China and the rest of the world, and hopes that by continuing her legacy, the U.S.-China relationship will become one of increased mutual respect and cooperation.
"We feel the best way to honor Helen is to continue the work she was engaged in, adapted to current conditions," Foster said, while putting an emphasis on people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
"I feel it's essential for both countries to learn more about each other, and people-to-people exchanges are a real benefit to each side," he explained. "These grass-roots efforts play a stabilizing role when the two countries may have disagreements in other areas."
The exchange of letters between Xi and Foster came before the arrival of the Chinese New Year, one of the most important festivals in China, which many in the United States, including members of the Foster family, also celebrate.
"My wife and I feel it's important to have our kids understand different cultures and countries, and with Helen's connection to China, our family enjoys learning about Chinese holidays together," said Foster, who also mentioned there are over 18,000 K-12 students learning Mandarin across Utah.
"I'm sure Helen would be thrilled if she were able to see these Utah kids speaking Mandarin and learning about the culture and traditions of the Chinese people that were so close to her heart," he added. ■