One hundred fifteen years ago, Zhou Enlai was born to humble beginnings in the historic city of Huaian. Today, we celebrate that anniversary, not just to look back — but to look forward as well.
As leader of the new independent China, Zhou Enlai set an example of unmatched integrity and dignity. He was a great international visionary, leading China back to the center of the world stage. But he was also a humble family man, who served his people with no thought of personal reward. He died in honor, penniless and simple, living in the center of power in Beijing like the poorest peasants he loved so much.
From America, we salute Zhou Enlai as the greatest peacemaker of his generation. With his courage, America and China became friends. Because his personal example was so strong, America opened itself to China. His leadership planted the seed that has grown into a forest of prosperity today.
More and more people in America, and throughout the world, are coming to understand and respect Zhou Enlai’s life today. That is good, because by understanding Zhou Enlai, one may begin to understand the best of China.
So we look back with respect for a great man. And we look forward with understanding: if we follow his principles with humility and discipline, China and the whole world will be more peaceful, more balanced.
Finally, to understand the significance of this great man in China today, one must only speak the name by which he is known — Zongli. When you speak this word, you can mean only one Premier, the first to serve modern China — Zhou Enlai.
One hundred fifteen years from today, his influence will continue to grow.
co-founder of the Zhou Enlai Peace Institute
Honolulu, March 5, 2013.