By Wang Fengjuan
China Report ASEAN recently spoke to Nai Chen Huang, president of Peking University Alumni Malaysia (PKUAM), in a coffee house at Peking University (PKU) Guanghua School of Management. When we arrived, he was chatting with a group of Malaysian students. Every time he visits Beijing, he makes a trip to the school to chat with teachers and students about the curriculum, their ideals and cultural and educational cooperation between China and Malaysia.
In 1995, Nai Chen Huang was admitted to PKU’s School of Economics thanks to help from revered overseas Chinese Malaysian Chen Kaixi, secretary general of the Malaysia-China Friendship Association. In those days, China and Malaysia hadn’t yet signed any agreement on educational cooperation, so Nai Chen Huang entered and left China on a visitor visa.
“China and Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Educational Exchange in 1997, which excited me because I had never entered China on a student visa,” Huang mused. “Fortunately, nobody doubted that I was a student of PKU.”
Moving from a village in Malaysia to the campus of a prestigious institute of higher education in China, Nai Chen Huang brimmed with curiosity about the impending studies and life at the university. Looking back, some experiences remain vivid for him. “Living at Peking University was the best experience of my life,” he claimed with a smile.
One of Nai Chen Huang’s fondest rituals from those days was inviting other international students to his dormitory, Room 309 of Shaoyuan Building 4 on campus, to have tea together and share the customs and cultures from their respective countries as well as experiences in China. Connected by tea, they forged a profound friendship.
On June 24, 2016, Nai Chen Huang and other alumni organized a tea party that integrated Chinese culture with Southeast Asian characteristics under the theme “Gathering of PKU People, Taste of Southeast Asian Tea” to welcome then PKU President Lin Jianhua on a visit to Malaysia.
A year later, the Southeast Asia Association of PKU, Pu Er Tea Trade Association of Malaysia, and Nanyang Tea Remembrance Cultural Society jointly organized the Tea with Belt and Road Forum and a tea party dubbed “Gathering of PKU People, Taste of Southeast Asian Tea 2.0” at Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University. Nai Chen Huang brought centuries-old tea treasured in Malaysia to PKU to share with attendees. Nai Chen Huang and fellow Malaysian alumnus Tan Keng Kang, as well as a Singaporean alumnus Sun Dongyao, donated tea wares to the museum.
Nai Chen Huang recalled that although he was an international student, he spent his days reading and studying with Chinese classmates at the School of Economics. In those days, he was relatively weak in mathematics and statistics, so his Chinese classmates often helped tutor him. “I am so grateful to everyone who helped me with my lessons,” he insisted. “Without their help, I may never have graduated from the school. We remain good friends to this day.”
“My feelings about PKU are deeply rooted in my heart,” Nai Chen Huang declared. “When I left the university, I made a promise to myself. I decided that when the time was right, I would take practical action to give back to my alma mater.” And he did just that.
In 2012, Nai Chen Huang started planning to establish PKUAM, and he visited the Peking University Alumni Association (PKUAA) to learn from their experience. With the help of PKUAA, Nai Chen Huang and a group of like-minded alumni officially launched the PKUAM, and Nai Chen Huang became the first president of the PKUAM in 2013.
The same year, PKUAM was approved by the Registrar of Societies of Malaysia.
PKUAM invited Dato Quek Suan Hiang, who enrolled in PKU in 1948 and became a Chinese educator, to serve as an advisor. “He was already past 80 years old and retired from social duties,” noted Nai Chen Huang. “But he still enthusiastically accepted our invitation when we asked him to join the PKUAM. This is the PKU spirit.”
As we passed a playground on campus, two students greeted Nai Chen Huang warmly. “They are freshmen who just arrived at the school this year,” he revealed. “PKUAM held a farewell party for them in Kuala Lumpur before they set off for PKU.” When he first enrolled, only six Malaysian students were attending PKU. Today, more than 200 Malaysian students can be found on campus during the school year.
Over the past six years, Nai Chen Huang and his alumni have actively assisted PKU’s admissions office to recruit good students. “The girl who just greeted me ranked top in her high school in every subject,” Nai Chen Huang beamed. “When she was applying for school, she had a hard time to decide between PKU and a university in Singapore. I told her about PKU in terms of teaching, research, life and scholarship. Ultimately, she decided to come to PKU.”
Chee Yuet Mun is a Malaysian student. After first applying for PKU, she was nervous about studying abroad. After Nai Chen Huang was informed to the situation, he invited her and her parents to attend an orientation meeting, at which he illustrated social development in China and the living and learning environment of PKU. “I am so grateful to Nai Chen Huang for his encouragement,” Chee Yuet Mun said. “The orientation meeting greatly alleviated my worries and calmed my parents’ concerns about studying abroad. The experiences he shared were also very helpful to me.”
Over the past six years, Nai Chen Huang has actively contacted alumni in Malaysia and strengthened his relationship with PKU as he has coordinated PKU’s admissions and educational activities in Malaysia as part of a drive to advance cultural and academic exchanges between Malaysia and China.
PKUAM has also signed a memorandum of cooperation with International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Alumni Society to jointly promote Sino-Malaysian exchanges in fields of culture and education. “We hope that exchange activities will give our brothers in Malaysia a more authentic understanding of China,” Nai Chen Huang said.
In August 2016, Huang and more than 30 young Malaysian standouts participated in the World Youth Forum on Civilization – China-Malaysia Confucian and Islamic Youth Cultural Exchange Summit in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius in eastern China’s Shandong Province.
Nai Chen Huang returned to Malaysia after graduating from PKU. He worked for a company for a year and a half before launching his own businesses in the fields of trade, building materials, human resources and investment. He often shuttles between China, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Since PKUAM was founded, Nai Chen Huang has devoted considerable efforts to social activities organized by PKUAM. “I hope I can do something meaningful to serve alumni, PKU and society by propelling common progress in culture and education between China and Malaysia,” he concluded.