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08 April 2023
At elite Chinese university, Macron hails 'critical thinking'

GUANGHZOU, China, April 7 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron was given a rock star welcome by Chinese students at an elite university in Guangzhou where he took questions and hailed critical thinking in a country with tight media and political control.

On the final leg of a three-day visit to China, Macron travelled south to Guangzhou, a coastal port city which his office said symbolised China's openness to the world.

At the verdant campus of Sun Yat-sen university, excited students screamed Macron's name, grabbed him to shake his hand and took pictures with their mobile phones as he made his way to the gymnasium for a question-and-answer session.

In opening remarks, Macron repeated the message of firmness against Russia he had conveyed to Chinese President Xi Jinping the day before.

"It's a country that decides to colonise its neighbour, to breach the rules, to deploy weapons and to invade," Macron said, drawing applause.


Asked by a nuclear physics student what he thought were the skills needed for a bright future, Macron cited knowledge, critical thinking and self-confidence.

"Critical thinking is just as important as access to knowledge. That's what makes you a free and emancipated individual," he told the crowd of about 1,000 students.

Without critical thinking, an individual "would not know what to do with knowledge and would simply be the victim of propaganda," Macron added.

Taking three questions before being told he needed to rejoin Xi, Macron was also asked what he thought of the popular new chatbot ChatGPT and artificial intelligence.

He replied there was no point being afraid of it but that the world should make sure it is not used by governments to increase their control over society.

The students listened attentively to Macron and clapped his answers. While they asked questions in French, he quipped that he would be hard-pressed to respond in Chinese.

"It was very important for students. The president said: if you have knowledge without critical thinking, you can't be yourself," said one 20-year old French student, who gave his name as Victor, after the session.

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