Chinese President Hu Jintao ended his first visit to the United States Friday with a speech at Yale, where he spoke on China’s strategy for peaceful economic development, as more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered at sites across campus.
Hu delivered his speech to a packed audience in Sprague Hall following a reception in Woodbridge Hall at 11 a.m. Hu and Yale President Richard Levin spoke briefly at a roundtable greeting before exchanging gifts at a ceremony in the Secretary’s Office.
“The friendship between Yale and China already has a long history,” Hu said through a translator in the Corporation Room prior to his address. “I have been looking forward to this moment for a long time.”
Hu’s speech in Sprague Hall addressed the sizable growth of China’s economy since the implementation of economic reforms introduced in 1978, but also emphasized the challenges China faces in the area of economic development as the world’s largest developing country. Hu said China has adopted a new scientific development strategy that will lead to future economic, political, cultural and social development.
The Chinese government aims to raise China’s GDP to $4 trillion by 2020, an average of $3,000 per person. Hu said that although China and the United States have different historical backgrounds and national conditions, the two countries can learn from one another.
“Exchanges in culture and education and among young people serve as a bridge for increasing mutual understanding between our two peoples,” Hu said. “They are also a major driving force for the healthy and stable growth of China-U.S. relations.”
Levin said in his opening statement that Hu’s visit is recognition of a long relationship between China and Yale.
“By your presence today, you honor the long association between China and Yale, and you honor the place of the University in both Chinese and American society,” he said. “We are deeply grateful.”
Both protestors and supporters began pouring into downtown New Haven as early as 8 a.m. Friday, where they were met with a sizeable police force and locked-down streets. Most of the demonstrators came from out of town for the event.
Amelie Hutchings ’08, who was carrying a sign that said “CCP: The Party’s Over,” said he was not surprised by the relatively low turnout of student protestors.
“It’s kind of small, but it’s not completely unexpected,” Hutchings said. “For all the jumping and shouting, we tend to be a pretty unactive group of students.”
Xiangdong Sun, spokesman for the International Association of Yan Xin Life Science and Technology, accompanied demonstrators on the New Haven Green carrying a banner that read, “Warmly Welcome President Hu Jintao To The United States.”
“We have come here with a happy mind to welcome President Hu to the United States,” Sun said.
Throughout the morning, demonstrators assembled at four sites – the New Haven Green, the intersections of Wall and Temple and Wall and York streets, and in front of Sheffield-Sterling Strathcona Hall – although the New Haven Green and Old Campus were the designated assembly spaces.
Several buildings near Sprague Hall were shut down as a security precaution.
An associate producer for CNN International who asked Levin a question during the gift ceremony was escorted out of Woodbridge Hall. Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said the producer was credentialed only for Woodbridge Hall and was escorted off campus. A CNN spokesman said Joe Zaccarello, “a reporter out of the U.N. office experienced in diplomatic protocol,” asked Levin whether Hu had seen the demonstrations.
“They asked him to leave, which seems kind of bizarre,” the CNN spokesman said.
A panel discussion titled “China Today: Reflections following Hu Jintao’s address” was held in Battell Chapel following the address. Approximately 150 students attended the discussion moderated by political science professor Ian Shapiro, whose panelists included sociology professor Deborah Davis, China Law Center Director and law professor Paul Gewirtz, Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, political science professor Frances Rosenbluth, and Yale professor and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.
Koh said human rights is a global idea and not restricted to China.
“Human rights is no longer the property of one country,” Koh said. “These are now global concepts. China has to accept global standards on anti-corruption and human rights, and that is what you did not hear from President Hu.”
During the gift exchange ceremony, Hu presented the University with books on Chinese political science, economics, history and culture, while Levin presented Hu with one of the books Rong Hong, Class of 1854 – the first Chinese person ever to receive a degree from an American university – gave to Yale as well as portrait of Hong.
Adam Scharfman ’07, one of four Yale students invited to the gift ceremony, said he was excited to meet the Chinese leader.
“It was a big honor,” Scharfman said. “It was like a dream come true.”
The speech, telecast on closed circuit television, was the first live speech Hu has given outside his own nation, and the second that a Chinese president has delivered at an American University. Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin spoke at Harvard University in 1997.