In conversation: The professor and the student rap about youth, ideals and the CPC

Lin Lixin
'Youth' interactive show highlights the importance of four sites in the "start up" period of the Party and the driving role of young people.
Lin Lixin

"Youth," an interactive exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, will run for one week from July 22 at Shanghai Library.

It will offer a vivid multimedia representation of the roles of four important historical sites in the "startup" period of the CPC: the Former Residence of Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Exhibition Center of the Communist Manifesto, the Former Editorial Office of La Jeunesse, and the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Mia Barkenaes, a third-year US student at New York University Shanghai, came to China because she was intrigued by its culture. She received an early invitation to the exhibition and talked with sociologist Deng Weizhi, a tenured professor at Shanghai University who is also the exhibition's consultant.

They discussed the highlights of the exhibition and shared views on the important roles of youth, and the concepts of history, love, sacrifice and faith of CPC members, enabling Mia to learn more about the Party. After the conversation, she was inspired to visit historical sites around the city.

Youth have always been the driving heart of the Party and even in 2021, from Deng's perspective, the 100-year-old CPC is still young, full of energy and vitality. Mia felt inspired that a hundred years ago, a group of aspiring young people founded the CPC and their roles were recognized. Mia believes that in many countries, it's unusual for youth to be politically recognized the way they were in the founding of the CPC.

The four sites featured in the exhibition reflect memorable histories of the nation and its people. Mia agreed with Deng's idea that "history is a mirror," a fine tradition that we cannot forget, and she believed the good and bad of history should be combined for a better future.

Finding the balance between personal love and patriotism has always been difficult during the time of social transformation. At the Former Residence of Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Mia was absorbed by the love letter written by Mao's wife, Yang Kaihui, who sacrificed herself for the country. Different from her common impression of Mao as a Party leader, she learned about the couple's deep love from a human perspective, which she said was a better way to "get a greater understanding, evaluation and critique of their leadership."

As an old saying goes in China, "people should cultivate their morality and serve their family, the country and the world," all elements that should be unified. But for communists like Mao and Yang, they always sacrificed their family for the whole country when there was conflict, and this was very noble in Mia's opinion. For herself, she feels it's a hard decision because she wants all of those important things to be inclusive.

Mia visited the Exhibition Center of the Communist Manifesto to learn more about the faith of CPC members. Deng concluded that because the members had faith in both the state and its citizens, they could make the country prosperous and its people better. 

As a young woman from the US, Mia also thinks that looking at the system is important for issues of justice or equality, such as systematic racism. She believes that when the communists looked at the issues around them, it was important to tackle them socially and politically for the entirety of society.  

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