Presidential Address

Professor Roland T CHIN

President and Vice-Chancellor


Your World, My World, and Our World

Welcome to Hong Kong Baptist University’s 60th and 61st Commencement Ceremony. My hearty congratulations to all the graduating students. Today is a big day for you and your parents. Today means a lot to all of us too, as this is not a normal time, and this event has not come easy.

We are especially grateful to have four distinguished individuals joining the HKBU family today. They are all elites in their respective disciplines. They are excellent role models for our graduates and students on how unfailing efforts and determination can help change our world into a better place. Be it in the sciences, AI, education or journalism, the innovative spirit, far-sighted vision and professionalism they demonstrate has truly improved the lives of many people and brought creative solutions to the challenges in our society as well as the world. We are honoured to have them joining us and we look forward to their wise counsel, especially at this time of chaos and uncertainty.

Commencement is special and it is one of the most memorable occasions in your life. Regrettably last year all universities in Hong Kong called off their commencement because of the social unrest. This year all universities around the world called off their commencement because of the coronavirus pandemic. Within a year our world has changed beyond recognition.

You are now in transition, from the university to the World. Your World, too, is in transition, from a known world to an unknown world. Gone are the days when Your World was full of predictable opportunities for new university graduates like you. Gone are the days when you can almost predict when you will get your next post-graduate degree, or when you will rise to senior positions, and when you will get married.

Only months ago your biggest headaches were about which company you should choose to start your career. Or which overseas universities to go to for your Master’s or PhD. Then all of a sudden you wake up to find that all these opportunities have vanished like a dream. Everything becomes uncertain. The news headlines say that the United States is set to expel Chinese research students in high-tech disciplines, that our Ministry of Education has issued safety warnings against Chinese students studying in some Western countries, like Australia. The worldwide unemployment rate has skyrocketed. Millions of university graduates will find themselves jobless in the coming months, perhaps years. Social unrest is spreading all over the world, as is the COVID-19 pandemic, with no signs of subsiding. Our ways of living, learning, shopping, interacting, and travelling have changed forever. Your World has turned upside down.

BUT … Your up-side-down World is not so different from My World when I was about your age, 50 years ago. In 1970 I went to study in the United States, to a new world turned upside down by two epic events.

When I was a kid, the former Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik (1957) – the world's first satellite into orbit. It shook the world. In response, the United States invented the Internet (to overcome communication blackouts if war should break out with the Soviet Union). In 1969, a computer in UCLA said “hello” to a computer in the Stanford Research Institute. That “hello” turned My World upside down. It was the dawn of a telecom age that is still changing lives today. The dark side of the Web was then beyond our wildest imagination in the seventies, like world-wide opinion shaping through social media, global surveillance, massive facial recognition, fake news, and digital war.

Now, the second world event. A few years before I went to the United States, the former Soviet Union sent the first man to orbit the earth in a spaceship in 1961. In response, the United States sent a man to the moon in 1969. It extended the COLD WAR to space. Today, satellites dot our skies like stars, helping us find our way and helping missiles find their targets. Like today, My World was then turned upside down. Worse than today, the Vietnam war was raging with hundreds of thousands killed, anti-war protests swept across the Western world, and protesting students at Kent State University were shot dead by the US National Guard.

That was My World when I was your age. Now 50 years on, you are experiencing the same, again on an epic scale. Huawei launched 5G which marks a new industrial revolution, the United States launched a war on IC chips, then a trade war, internet war, A.I. war, a full technology war, with a financial war looming on the horizon. A full-blown cold war between China and the United States is just around the corner. The rest of the world is on fire too – major protests erupting around the globe: the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, the Yellow Vests movement in France, the social unrest in Hong Kong, protests in Belarus, Chile, Thailand, etc. The history always repeats itself.

Can you cope with an upside down world? Your graduation from HKBU means that you have high IQ and high EQ. So I am not worried about that. But high IQ and EQ are not enough. I want to talk to you about your CQ.

You have all been brought up in a competitive environment. Your whole family pin their hopes on you. That is a huge burden. You have to do better than the rest. You have to win. You might be self-centred, at times facing the world alone. That’s why I want to talk to you about your CQ, that is, Collaborative Quotient. Imagine what a beautiful world it would be if China and the United States would collaborate in good faith and trust, collaborate on climate change, collaborate on fighting social inequality, and collaborate in the war against COVID-19. Collaboration promises a better world for all.

What applies to China and the United States applies equally to all of us as individuals. In this New World of complexity and uncertainty, a common missing key personality trait is collaboration. Collaboration is not just asking someone to work with you so that you can succeed. To collaborate is to uplift and enrich each other. To understand and appreciate diversity. Collaboration means coming out of your social media world that is made up of your own types who all share the same belief and ideology. Collaboration is engaging in delightful dialogue with those you disagree with.

Collaboration requires you to cast off the “I am right and you are wrong” mind set, and shake off the “You against Me and Them against Us” mentality. Remember that Your World is also Their World, and that Their World is the same as Our World.

It is unfortunate that Our World lacks citizens and leaders of high CQ. As BU graduates, set an example of how your high CQ can make a difference. You have a big role to play in changing the world, a world that everybody holds dear as Our World.

So this is my last piece of advice as the President of HKBU. It comes from deep within me. We all have high hopes for you, for your transition into this New World of Ours. Thank you and congratulations.