Organization's head 'very pleased' when he gets Xi's letter, praises intl friendship
Adam Foster, a great-nephew of trailblazing United States journalist Helen Foster Snow, has long believed in the value of building connections between nations through people coming together.
His great-aunt, together with Edgar Snow, whom she met and married in China, had championed the practice by making the Communist Party of China known to the world through their writings on the Party and the Chinese revolution.
If ever Adam Foster could do with some reinforcement on the need for people-to-people exchanges, it came in late January in the form of a letter from President Xi Jinping. Xi told Foster in the letter that he highly appreciates the positive contributions made by his family to the development of relations between China and the United States over the years.
The president highlighted the work of the Helen Foster Snow Foundation, an organization named after the accomplished journalist and writer in her own right who helped convey a more accurate picture of China to the world.
Xi said he hopes that Foster and the foundation, based in Utah, will continue to follow the example of Edgar and Helen Snow.
Foster, the foundation's president, told China Daily's Edgar Snow Newsroom: "I'm grateful that the leaders of our countries understand the importance of people-to-people relationships and building bridges and working together. Our work has also received a tremendous amount of support from people across the United States and China. So to me, this really is international friendship in action."
Foster spoke of feeling "very pleased" when he received Xi's letter, a treasured delivery ahead of Spring Festival. The president's words of encouragement came in response to a letter Foster had sent him.
Foster decided to write to Xi when he was taking stock of the foundation's accomplishments over the past four years to "emphasize the spirit of international friendship, which Helen Foster Snow embodied".
Last year marked the 90th anniversary of Helen Foster's arrival in China, and Adam Foster said he wanted to thank the Chinese people for honoring his great-aunt's work over the years.
Adam Foster let slip that there's also a connection between Helen Foster Snow and Xi Zhongxun, father of President Xi. Helen Foster Snow encouraged her friend Rewi Alley to establish the Bailey School in Shandan, Gansu province, in 1940 to help underprivileged children get an education.
"Later, I learned that Rewi Alley invited President Xi's father to serve as an honorary principal of the Bailey School," he said.
"So the spirit of international friendship, which Helen began so long ago, continues today. And I think this spirit was really echoed by President Xi's letter."
With his great-aunt's charitable work in mind, Foster said that China's feat of raising millions of people out of poverty counts as the most remarkable change he has witnessed over the years.
Foster said the foundation is committed to creating a platform for dialogue, engagement and practical cooperation focusing on exchanges in education, culture and business, as well as in the subnational sphere.
To achieve that goal, the foundation is working with universities, museums and other institutions to promote language learning, education and cultural exchanges.
"For example, we are working with partners in Jiangxi province to create a ceramic cultural center based in Utah, to share this amazing cultural tradition of ceramic artistry with Americans; with Northwest University in Xi'an, we are working to promote the Helen Foster Snow Translation Award to be a world-class translation competition," he said.
The foundation is also planning to create a high-level award in Helen Foster Snow's name to recognize those who have helped to build bridges between the peoples of China and other nations.
Foster said that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation has held several events in Chinese provinces to share his great-aunt's work as a photojournalist in 1930s China. "Events like these create a chance for subnational governments to engage and dialogue with each other on nonsensitive topics," he said.
Last year, his daughter Makenna Foster was chosen as a young ambassador to represent the US at the Silk Road Children's Emissary for Chinese New Year.
"We feel the best way to honor Helen is to continue the work she was engaged in, adapted to current conditions," Foster said.
Adam Foster's first connection with China came when he met a Chinese student in southern France when he was 19. He was serving as a volunteer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a faith whose adherents are known as Mormons.
"While there, I met a young college student named Ge Yi from Beijing who was studying art at the university in Marseille," Foster said. "He was the first person from China I had ever met. I told him I was related to Helen Foster Snow and he said, 'Wow, your family is very famous!' I didn't really know what that meant at the time since I had never been to China."
Of course, he heard about his great-aunt's trip to China when the US and China resumed contact in the early 1970s.
However, he had no clue of the impact she had on China and US-China relations. He remembered her mostly as a generous family member who, while not wealthy herself, helped to pay for his father's college education.
Helen Foster went to China in 1931 and reported on China for several US publications. There she met Edgar Snow and married him. In 1937, she traveled to Yan'an, befriended Red Army leader Mao Zedong and was granted full access to other Communist leaders and the military. Her photos gave a big boost to Edgar Snow's celebrated book Red Star Over China, which amplified Mao's thinking on the world stage.
The Snows also helped to develop Chinese Industrial Cooperatives – the Gung Ho movement – to create jobs and income for Chinese people to gain economic power against the Japanese invaders. She returned to the US in 1940 and resumed contact with China following president Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972. Little known in the US, Helen Foster Snow is a household name in China.
Adam Foster became friends with Ge and calls him his very first Chinese friend.
"The most astonishing thing was how alike we were. His sense of humor was similar to my own. He was honest, hardworking and very hospitable," Foster recalled. "These were values that I was taught at a young age growing up in the culture of Utah, and I marveled how someone who lived on the other side of the world could be so similar to the people I grew up with."
That encounter prompted Foster to read Helen Foster Snow's work My China Years after he returned to Utah to attend college.
"I was spellbound learning about 1930s China, Helen and Edgar Snow's courtship, the Dec 9 Movement, the Xi'an Incident, Helen's escape from her hotel window to visit Yan'an, and the Chinese Industrial Cooperative (Gung Ho) Movement. It had romance, adventure and intrigue. I remember thinking, this should be a movie!"
In 2016, Adam Foster was invited to China by Northwest University in Xi'an and spent several days traveling to sites associated with Helen and Edgar Snow's past.
In 2018, Foster visited again to attend the dedication ceremony for the Gung Ho Museum in Baoji, Shaanxi province. There, he realized how the model of Utah's industrial cooperatives promoted by Brigham Young, Utah's first governor, had been promoted by Snow in China and then India.
Inspired by his great-aunt, Foster established the Helen Foster Snow Foundation in 2018 to continue her remarkable legacy of bridge-building, and he has never looked back.
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记者：May Zhou、Nathan Willian