The valedictorian of a graduating class at Peking University has used his commencement address to compare US President Donald Trump to China’s first emperor.

Cody Abbey, an American master’s student at Yenching Academy, delivered a speech in Mandarin at the degree ceremony for the graduate class of 2017 last Wednesday.

“The reason the new president of my country likes China is because he admires the Great Wall… He admires it not because the Great Wall is a part of China’s cultural heritage; rather, he admires it because just like the First Qin Emperor, he wants to build a barrier like this and cut off Americans from those outside our borders,” he said.

Cody Abbey giving the commencement speech. Photo: Screenshot via QQ.

Abbey – who studied public and international affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School – said that international exchange was important amid the rise of populism and anti-globalisation. He also talked about recent terror attacks and the burgeoning refugee crisis.

In response to the quip about Trump, one commenter said: “Will this guy be able to go back to America?”

Another commenter said, “[Americans] are very democratic, have freedom of speech. But if we said something like that in public in our country, we would end up like Bi Fujian, as an example.”

Bi Fujian, also known as Laobi, is a Chinese television host. In April 2015, he was suspended from on-air duties at CCTV after a video of him criticising Chairman Mao in a parody song was leaked.

West Gate of Peking University. Photo: Wikicommons.

It was the first graduation ceremony of the Yenching Academy of Peking University. Scholars at the Academy are chosen from all over the globe and are offered a fully funded residential program. The Academy aims to “shape a new generation of global citizens with a nuanced understanding of China and its role in the world.”

In his closing remarks, Abbey encouraged greater international exchange: “[A]ll people – those from all walks of life – can change the world one bit at a time through intercultural dialogue. Each day, everyone could try to be just a little more open, just a little more tolerant.”

“That way, we can be just like Confucius once said, ‘different but harmonious,’” he said.

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.