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Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pays lightning visit to Leiden University

During his two-day visit to the Netherlands, the Chinese Prime Minister paid an unexpected visit to Leiden on 16 October. Li Keqiang spoke with Rector Carel Stolker, Chinese PhD candidates and students of China Studies.

Premier Li Keqiang was accompanied by his wife. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade were also part of the delegation.

This lightning visit to Leiden was an informal occasion and was only announced on the day it took place. Rector Carel Stolker received Li at the entrance to the Academy Building, where  students who had just been presented with their degree certificates were surprised to be part of this high-level visit. Li and Stolker talked about the special partnerships that Leiden University has with some twenty Chinese universities and the Prime Minister was curious to hear what such collaborations entail. Stolker: ‘The Prime Minister was pleasantly surprised about the breadth of the collaboration. It covers the humanities, social sciences, law and science subjects, as well as students, PhD candidates and members of staff.' 

Premier Li reading a Japanese wall poem.

Visit to China

'Our Vice-Rector Hester Bijl made a two-day visit to China last week to renew our links with Chinese universities,' Stolker told Premier Li.  She visited Peking University, where she signed a renewed partnership agreement with Peking University Law School, the university where Li studied Law.

China Studies only possible in Leiden

Li did not choose Leiden by chance. The many exchange programmes mean that there is a flourishing Chinese community here: around four hundred Chinese researchers and students work and study in Leiden and The Hague. Leiden University is also the only Dutch university with a full China Studies programme. 

Li in conversation with Chinese PhD candidates and students of China Studies.

Contributing to society

In front of a Hortus botanicus bathed in sunshine, Li talked with Chinese PhD candidates from Leiden and Delft. 'It is a true honour to meet our Premier here in Leiden,' one of them said. 'He asked whether we like living here and whether we are planning to use our knowledge to contribute to society, both in the Netherlands and in China. That's something we certainly want to do, and we are enjoying being here.' The Premier was also interested to hear of the experiences of students of China Studies, Ytsen de Jong commented. 'He asked us what we learn about the history of China and whether the author of our textbook is American or Chinese. I told him the author is Dutch.' 

Li presented Stolker with a gift of Chinese tea.

Visit Hong Kong

At the end of the lightning visit Stolker and Li exchanged gifts. At the start of November the Recor will be visiting Hong Kong for several days to attend the meeting of the World Cultural Council, an event that Leiden hosted last year. Stolker will also visit universities in Hong Kong and will deliver the Clevering lecture for Leiden alumni.

Photos Monique Shaw
Text Linda van Putten
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