Delivered: Text of speech
delivered upon receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from the University of
Victoria (Canada), at a special ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on 8 May 1981. Delivering
her speech from a wheelchair, this was Soong Ch'ing Ling's last public
appearance before her death on 29 May 1981.
Source: "Canadian Award to Soong Ching Ling Marks International Friendship" and "In Equality, For Peace", in China Reconstructs magazine, vol. XXX, no. 7 (July 1981); pages 4 and 5.
Transcription & HTML Markup for marxists.org: Juan Fajardo, January 2022.
SHE is a woman whose life has been a virtual history of the Chinese people’s struggle to work together for social, political and economic modernization. Her unswerving devotion to the well-being of the Chinese people has won for her a special place in the hearts of admirers around the world. . . Few people have ever contributed so many years of active service to improving the welfare of children, to elevating the status of women, to extending health care to such a large portion of humanity and to supporting the goal of world peace.”
With these words, in a ceremony that established a new bond between Canada and China, Dr. Howard Petch, president of that country’s Victoria University, conferred its degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws on Soong Ching Ling (Mme. Sun Yat-sen), Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, at a special convocation of the university held in May in Beijing.
SOONG Ching Ling said of the award, “I accept it not for myself but as a token of your respect and friendship for the Chinese people and what they have achieved through protracted revolutionary struggles and in the building of our People’s Republic. Equally, I accept it as a token of the old and firm friendship that binds the people of China and Canada.”
Soong Ching Ling, besides her governmental position, is Honorary President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and Chairman of the China Welfare Institute which publishes China Reconstructs.
Other speakers at the ceremony were Wang Bingnan, President of the Chinese Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and Michel Quavin, Canadian Ambassador to China. Present were many governmental and academic leaders as well as Chinese and foreign friends of Soong Ching Ling.
The text of Soong Ching Ling’s speech follows:
I am honored to accept the doctorate from the University of Victoria.
I accept it not for myself but as a token of your respect and friendship for the Chinese people and what they have achieved through protracted revolutionary struggles and in the building of our People’s Republic. Equally, I accept it as a token of the old, and firm friendship that binds the people of China and Canada.
Our countries face each other across the Pacific. Long ago many Chinese began to go to Canada to work. They contributed in many ways to the building up of Canada. They won the respect of their fellow- citizens of other origins — they have been good Canadians. At the same time they have not forgotten their ancestral homeland, whose progress they have never failed to assist. In Sun Yat-sen’s day they were staunch supporters of his cause — he himself spent much time among them. They aided that cause not only financially but by joining its ranks, many returning to China to help achieve its aims. Later in the struggles to repel Japanese militarist invasion and still later to found and build the People’s Republic of China, they continued their staunch support.
And it is not only they, among the Canadians, who have stood by us. Both in the anti-monarchic revolution led by Sun Yat-sen and in the new democratic and socialist revolutions led by the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese people have been helped by justice-loving Canadians of European ancestry. Their most outstanding representative and noblest symbol was Dr. Norman Bethune, who gave his life in 1939 while serving the wounded on China’s most arduous front, the guerrilla front of the Liberated Areas. Lauded by the late Chairman Mao Zedong’s famous essay, “In Memory of Norman Bethune”, his name is known among the entire Chinese people who regard him as the brightest example of international sharing of weal and woe in the cause of progress and justice. When men, women and even children in even the most remote parts of our vast country hear the word Canada, they think of Bethune, and when they hear the name Bethune they think of Canada, his homeland. Bethune’s bones rest on Chinese soil, his memory is enshrined in Chinese hearts, he will bind China and Canada together for centuries and for millenia. In a large sense, it fell to a Canadian, in China, to become an international exemplar of the necessary solidarity of people from all countries in battle against all would- be enslavers, and this is an honor to both our lands.
More generally, numerous Canadians, government people, educators and others have been friendly
to China’s struggles for equality and independence. It was so, notably, in World War II, when our two countries were allies against the fascist Axis. It is so today. I would like, among long-term friends, particularly to mention Dr. Chester Ronning and Dr. James Endicott, and there are many more. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and especially since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Canada the bridge of Chinese-Canadian friendship has become more stable, broader and stronger, including good state relations, mutually advantageous trade, and academic and other amicable exchanges.
IN the present, as in the past, we have a common interest not only in continued friendship but, tangibly and sharply, in common effort for the preservation of world peace. Experience has taught both Chinese and Canadians that to guard peace, there must be a clear stand against all aggression by one state against another, all attempts by super-power expansionists to impose their will on the peoples and nations of the world.
As in the 1930s, the choice between two alternatives stands stark and clear. One is the course that, history has painfully taught us, leads to world war — the course of illusion, weakness, disharmony and appeasement that can only embolden and accelerate the aggressor’s clearly unfolding drive for global hegemony. The other is the course of realism, of firmly-knit and determined resistance to halt that drive. The international situation is getting increasingly tense and turbulent and world peace is under serious menace. The root cause lies in expansion and aggression by hegemonism. We must face it firmly and adopt effective measures to cope with the present critical international situation.
Sun Yat-sen, in his last will, called upon us, in our country, to ensure the “elevation of China to a position of freedom and equality among the nations.” And he wrote that “to ensure this goal we must bring about an awakening of our own people and ally ourselves with those peoples of the world that regard us as equals.” Today China’s international position is better than ever before, her people are awakened as never before, and on this basis she is confident that she can achieve the tasks of further progress epitomized in the current goal of socialist modernization. In this task, too, we must work with all those in the world who regard us as equals — among whom are the people and nation of Canada.