School of Government Peking University  
Order dimension for graduates: be a seed of growth in the new order MAO Shoulong


Distinguished professors, dearest seniors and juniors, good afternoon.

I am very glad to be back in Peking University today, and to be back by the Weiming lake. It is my honour to be here at the graduation ceremony of the School of Government as a representative of the Class of ‘84, 30 years after my own graduation. Today, I cannot help but reflect upon my own graduation three decades ago. 30 years ago, the School of Government had just been established and was still known as the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. If I may say so, the Class of ‘84 was the first batch of graduates from the new School of Government. I am very proud of that fact.

When I graduated, the school did not throw us a ceremony and needless to say, there was no opportunity for us to put on the graduation gown. Because of this, when the Class of ‘84 returned to Peking University on the 30th anniversary of our graduation, on 30 April 2018, we held our long-awaited make-up ceremony in front of the Peking University Centennial Lecture Hall. Some of the graduate representatives put on the graduation gowns and formed a line to receive their certificates from our professors and take photographs with them. On that day, the Class of ‘84 also held its 30-year reunion. Although many of us had already begun sporting white hair, everyone felt rejuvenated just being back on the campus of Peking University. In the eyes of our juniors, we saw shadows of the young men and women we used to be.

In these 30 years, some of us have become professors, others entrepreneurs, and still others have become judges. We have lost our youthful good looks, but our behaviours remained as they were 30 years ago. The different social groups, the active students, the organisers of class activities, the students who would rally us together, and the ones who would push us forward. The gossip, enduring crushes, shyness around said crushes, and those who were still reticent after all these years. In the eyes of my classmates, I had probably become bigger but had retained my love of reading.

Even though it had been 30 years since graduation, we were still young at heart.

However, time slips away from even the best of us and having lived for more than half a century, we were acutely aware that physically, we were no longer who we used to be. There were 2200 graduates in the Class of 84; only 900 returned to Peking University for the reunion. 46 graduates from that year will never return due to illnesses or traffic accidents. Many more will leave us in the 30 years to come. How many of us will make it to 80? The indicators are not optimistic.

So as someone who graduated 30 years ahead of you, the first thing I would like to tell you today is: your body is not a tool. Do not neglect or abuse it in the pursuit of material gains. No matter how old you are, listen to your body and understand what it needs. Start looking after your body before you think you need to, so you don't regret 30 years later. Also, be careful on the road. Life is a one-way journey that can be abruptly terminated at any point. Once it does, you will never be able to return to Peking University, to stand by the lake and take photographs with the tower.

As Immanuel Kant said, humans should be treated as ends in themselves and not as a means. I did not understand this 30 years ago. 30 years later, I now understand this from the perspective of order dimensions. Going by this theory, our independent psychological order, together with the order of our physical selves combined with our free spiritual order, are the core foundation of our efforts to develop ourselves in all other dimensions. Building on this core foundation, we can choose to develop different aspects of ourselves: academically, professionally, and politically. What this means is that we can do our best to become academics, entrepreneurs, and to climb the bureaucratic ladder.

From this perspective, those who pursue success are extraordinary because great sacrifice is to produce results. You have to cram a day and a half’s work in a day and be willing to work overtime. Some may even squeeze two days of work into a single day, working late into the night and only resting for a few short hours. The massive workload allows us to build up a strong foundation in any area that we may choose to develop. When opportunity presents itself at the right place and time, graduates who are prepared to seize them will benefit and grow. As a student, the “chosen ones” were selected through examinations; after graduation, we become pillars of society through persistent effort and hard work.

However, for our generation, it was not as straightforward as simply working hard because there was a lot of uncertainty. The past 30 years have been marked by rapid changes and development in every aspect of Chinese society. We were a fortunate generation. Our graduation period coincided with the economic reform and opening up. We were also a confused generation, cautiously crossing the river by feeling the stones. Time and again, we had to make difficult choices only to find out 30 years later that those choices might have led us down the wrong path. Despite that, there was no opportunity to start afresh and make new choices. On hindsight, I discovered a pattern. If you persevere in your choices, you will not only strengthen your core foundation, you will also expand your knowledge and abilities. As the saying goes, it takes 10 years to sharpen a sword. This means you can sharpen three swords in 30 years. Put in the work and do it without complaining. Once you have honed your skills, you will find that many problems will resolve themselves.

No matter which perspective we take, the next 30 years look to be fraught with tumultuous change. Over the past 30 years, social order in China has become more fragile and the hold of tradition has weakened, with nothing left to take its place. The marketplace has grown in many respects, but product quality remains unreliable, there is a capacity surplus, and we are faced with a growing asset bubble as well as an unstable financial market. It is clear that the state of the market still needs room to mature. In terms of national order, there is great resistance to institutional innovation. Governmental reform is a winding road and much like the preceding 30 years – even the past century – it will require the hard work of graduates like yourselves to come to fruition. In addition, not only should you keep working at polishing your skills, you should also aim to be well-versed in a few key areas of specialisation so that you may make the biggest contributions to society.

At this critical juncture, as someone who has been down this path ahead of you, I would like to provide a word of advice. Grow your strengths but also expand yourself in other areas. It goes without saying too that you should not treat yourself as a mere tool for whatever success you seek, but you should view yourself as a seed from which new areas of growth may sprout and flourish. Thank you!