Feature: China, U.S. youths commit to friendship in new chapter of Flying Tigers story-Xinhua

Feature: China, U.S. youths commit to friendship in new chapter of Flying Tigers story

Source: Xinhua| 2024-04-22 15:59:00|Editor:

by Xinhua writers Liu Yanan, Xu Xingtang

DAYTON, United States, April 21 (Xinhua) -- In front of a 3.7-ton stone roller and a fighter jet, two Chinese middle schools and an American school exchanged a cooperative memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the Midwest U.S. city of Dayton this week, to commemorate the Flying Tigers and Doolittle Raiders, the Americans who fought Japanese aggressors with their Chinese cohort during World War II.

The stone roller has been on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. It was used to flatten and level the runway in the construction of an airport for the Flying Tigers in southwest China's Yunnan province during WWII, pulled by sheer manpower by thousands of Chinese locals.

Kunming Foreign Language School and the No. 2 Middle School of Xiangyun County from Yunnan exchanged the MoU on cooperation under the program of "Flying Tigers Friendship School and Young Leaders" with International Leadership of Texas, a network of public charter schools.

More than 80 years after their heroic operations in China, "we're running out of Flying Tigers," said Jeffrey Greene, chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation (SAAHF), an organization aimed at promoting friendship and understanding between the United States and China by fostering a practicable dialogue on their common aviation history.

Greene told Xinhua that the number of the Flying Tigers has come down to around a dozen from around 500 when the foundation was started in 1998, thus it's vital to pass on the history and memory forged by blood.

"For American kids, we want them to come and learn about the Chinese. We want the Chinese (students) to come and learn so that each group is proud of the other country," he said. "The Flying Tigers give us a wonderful opportunity because there's something that all Chinese and all Americans can be proud of."

The SAAHF and Dr. Jack L. Schofield Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada, jointly initiated the Flying Tigers Friendship School and Young Leaders Program in 2022 in a bid to carry forward the spirit of the Flying Tigers among Chinese and American students, enhance mutual understanding and friendship, and deepen mutual respect and cooperation between the two countries.

"The idea was based on all the trips from all the veterans we've taken to China," said Greene.

The program was well-received with dozens of schools from both sides actively participating in it and signing MoUs.

"I want our 20,000 kids to be in China, not just this summer but next summer, not just for two weeks, but for a month at Beijing Language and Culture University, I want our kids to be able to go deep into China to understand that 5,000-year history," said Eddie Conger, superintendent, CEO and founder of International Leadership of Texas, which serves 23,000 students from kindergartners to 12th grade.

Erik Lutz, mayor of Pico Rivera, told Xinhua that he hopes to send students to China this June to visit Chinese schools and experience Chinese culture for about two weeks.

He said what the Flying Tigers have done was unifying the United States and China on the people-to-people level.

"For the future of our two countries, the thing we can do (and) will have the most impact is our students. And we get them to know each other young and then it'll take off from there," said Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dialogue is really important in the China-U.S. relationship and the initiative by the SAAHF is "exactly what has to happen," said Myers at the opening ceremony of a concurrent photo exhibition on the Flying Tigers and Doolittle Raiders.

Greene said the story of the Flying Tigers and Doolittle Raiders are a "life and death" thing and there are not a lot of things like that.

He believed the U.S. students' lives would be forever changed after their visit to China. "They'll know the Chinese people are just like them, the Americans and the Chinese share humor and laugh at the same thing."