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Chinese, Japanese Youth Celebrate Debut of Youth Exchange Year

Chinese and Japanese youth celebrated the opening ceremony of the China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of the Youth in Beijing on Saturday afternoon, marking the official launch of the year-long exchange program.

President Hu Jintao met with principal members of the 1,000-strong Japanese delegation at Beijing's Renmin University and watched a calligraphy show and tea ceremony given by the Chinese and Japanese youth.

They were the first foreign delegates Hu has met since being re-elected as Chinese president on Saturday morning.

During the meeting, Hu told Yotaro Kobayashi, the chief Japanese member of the new 21st Century Committee for China-Japan Friendship, that it accords with the fundamental interests of both countries to develop a good-neighborly relationship of long-term stability.

He pledged to expand cooperation with Japan and further develop mutually-beneficial ties based on common strategic interests.

"I am looking forward to the coming visit to Japan, and hope our two countries could lay out the future of the bilateral relations through the visit."

Kobayashi said Hu showed great enthusiasm for the Japan-China ties and he placed high hopes on the youth by showing up at the ceremony amid his tight agenda during the annual parliamentary session.

He also delivered a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to Hu.

After the meeting, Hu attended an art performance at the Renmin University stadium and talked to some of the 2,008 youngsters present -- 1,008 from China and 1,000 Japan.

"Nihao and Konnichiwa!" On entering the stadium, Hu greeted the youngsters in both Chinese and Japanese in the stadium. The stadium was immediately filled with applause.

"I love staying with youth, not only due to my working experience in youth affairs, but because youth are the hopes and future of the world," Hu told youngsters.

Recalling the China visit of 3,000 Japanese youngsters in 1984, Hu said such friendship was the basis of the China-Japan friendly ties and should be started with youth exchanges.

He called on youth from both countries to make extensive exchanges and make contributions for the future.

Later on, Hu, together with young representatives from both countries, planted a sakura tree and a yulan tree on the campus.

"We plant the two trees next to each other as we would like to see the sakura and yulan blooming together in the spring to symbolize forever amity between people of China and Japan. I believe the trees of China-Japan friendship are sure to flourish under the care of our two peoples, especially young people," Hu said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda both sent congratulatory messages to the ceremony.

The China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of the Youth was created last year by Wen and Fukuda when the two met over lunch in Singapore at the Asian Summit in November. A memorandum of understanding on the youth exchange year was signed during Fukuda's China visit in December.

It also marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty.

The Japanese delegation, who arrived in China on Monday, was led by Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Osamu Uno.

The delegation consists of 500 high school students, 200 university students and 300 young representatives from various walks of life such as parliamentarians, government officials, businessmen and journalists.

Breaking into small groups, they respectively visited such cities as Shanghai and Hangzhou in the east, Chongqing and Chengdu in the west, Guangzhou in the south, Dalian and Shenyang in the northeast and held get-togethers with their Chinese peers before their arrival in Beijing on Friday.

The current China tour has left Japanese youngsters with deep impressions. "I have an amazing time here, a totally fresh experience in my life," Matano Shoko, a Japanese student, told Xinhua in a merry voice.

Yoshida Ayumi, from Akita Minami high school, found China "quite different" from what she imagined before. "It's great to have face-to-face talks with Chinese peers. We exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to meet again in Japan next time," she said.

The three-hour opening ceremony ended with a great success, but the exchange activities will go on here in China and later in Japan. Matano said: "When the children worldwide smile, even the sky and ocean will join them."

(Xinhua News Agency March 16, 2008)

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