Responding to an invitation extended by Vice Premier Li Lanqing when he visited the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii last year, Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve traveled to Beijing, China, in mid-February of this year.
They were received at the Diaoyuta State Guest House where governmental guests are often welcomed. Among the host delegation were Vice Premier Li, one of four prime ministers of the People's Republic of China; President Qi Huaiyuan, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC); and Li Xiaolin, chief of American and Oceanian Affairs of the CPAFFC. Also in the group were Sister Colleen Maxwell; Sister Dantzel Nelson; Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy and president of the Asia Area; Elder K.Y. Tai of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and a counselor in the Asia Area presidency, and his wife, Sister Hui Hua Tai; Pierce and Beverly Campbell; and Steven Hendryks, a member of the Church residing in Beijing.The welcome by the Chinese hosts was gracious and cordial. In the large and beautifully appointed room, Elder Maxwell and Elder Nelson were seated beside the vice premier. Elder Nelson extended a greeting in the Mandarin language, then referred to work that he and other doctors of the Church had done in China during the preceding 15 years. Elder Nelson spoke of the reciprocal relationships that have been established that have provided advanced education for Chinese medical specialists.
Vice Premier Li seemed well aware of these activities and expressed gratitude for them. He also spoke of performing artists from Brigham Young University and their positive influence in his country.
The vice premier spoke of the importance of education at all levels in a country of 1.2 billion people. He indicated that appropriate assistance would be welcomed at all levels of educational endeavor. Vice Premier Li expressed an interest in Church volunteers who could come to China to help with the teaching of English and serve in other professional fields, particularly in vocational education and in community colleges.
Commenting later on the warmth of the reception, Elder Maxwell observed that it is appropriate to consider selective, humanitarian projects in order to be of assistance to a nation constituting one-fourth of the human family.
In a subsequent meeting with Vice Director Zhang Xiaowen of the State Education Commission, Mr. Zhang cordially suggested to Elder Maxwell that perhaps the Church could provide additional teachers of English among the 32 universities in their state education system. When the Church delegation met with Vice Minister Yin Dakui of the Ministry of Public Health, there was instant rapport. Those attending were familiar with the medical work done previously in China by Dr. Nelson prior to his call to the Twelve, and of medical teams that have come to China periodically since then.
Elder Nelson said that such efforts on the part of members of the Church are a manifestation of a desire to serve fellow human beings whenever there is a need. "This is one way of our implementing the teachings of Jesus Christ, who taught that we are to love God and to love our neighbors," Elder Nelson said.
Additional meetings were held at the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, hosted by Deputy Director Liu Shu Xiang, and at the Ministry of Culture hosted by Vice Minister Liu Deyou.
Sister Campbell, director of the International Affairs Office of the Church in Washington, D.C., worked closely with the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Mr. Li Daoyu, to finalize arrangements for these meetings. She noted that special support was extended and interest expressed at every level of government. "So many now in key positions had become friends during their previous service at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.," she said.
One of the highlights of the Church delegation's visit to China was a dinner hosted by Elder and Sister Maxwell and Elder and Sister Nelson. Present were representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Religion, State Education Commission, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Health, and the CPAFFC. Also present were Professor and Mrs. Wu Ying-kai with whom Elder Nelson had worked previously. Professor Wu is one of China's most famous professors of medicine and surgery.
Elder Maxwell observed that the contacts between Brigham Young University and the Chinese leaders and people have been warm and fruitful, "further establishing our genuine friendship with the Chinese people, especially as we explore other ways where additional service may be appropriately rendered."