“Chinese Premier Visits BYU—Hawaii Campus, Polynesian Cultural Center,” Ensign, Mar. 1984, 77–78
Church members were among the first people to host Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang when he visited the United States in January for meetings with President Ronald Reagan. En route to Washington, D.C., from China, he stopped in Hawaii, where he visited the Brigham Young University—Hawaii campus at Laie and the adjacent Polynesian Cultural Center.
The Chinese premier and his entourage arrived at the BYU—Hawaii campus by U.S. Marine helicopter. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve, who is chairman of the board for the Polynesian Cultural Center, led the party which formally greeted the premier. He was accompanied by BYU—Hawaii President J. Elliot Cameron and Ralph Rodgers, president and general manager of the Polynesian Cultural Center.
After formal greetings, the Chinese were given the traditional flower leis prepared for visitors, then took a walking tour of the Polynesian Center villages, which portray various island cultures. At the Tahitian village, the premier pointed out that several of the dancers appeared to be Chinese. His observation proved correct when one of them, a Chinese student from Malaysia, approached and gave him the traditional lei.
After touring the villages, the premier and his party went to the Cultural Center’s main theater for a special version of its regular evening show, “This Is Polynesia.” At its end, Brother Rodgers gave the premier a carved wood bowl and other gifts. The premier presented gifts in return—records and tapes of traditional Chinese music, and a red porcelain vase. Through his interpreter, the premier expressed the good wishes of China for the Polynesian area and its people. He had expressed surprise at learning the performers were students, not professionals, and he complimented them highly.
Following the performance at the Cultural Center, the Chinese party returned to BYU—Hawaii’s David O. McKay Building for a luncheon. Students on the serving staff represented twenty nations; in addition to serving, they fielded questions from the Chinese guests about the food and the school.
After the luncheon, there was another exchange of gifts. Elder Ashton presented the premier with a small bronze sculpture, “Learning with Love,” which depicts a mother teaching her daughter to play the violin. “I know the premier is a family man, with three children and several grandchildren,” Elder Ashton remarked.
Premier Zhao gave his hosts an elaborate porcelain vase in return and expressed his thanks for the enjoyable experience. Elder Ashton reported later that the Chinese leader remarked on the high moral values of BYU performing groups from the Provo campus who have toured his country.
During his visit to the BYU—Hawaii campus, the premier was introduced to a handful of the students from China enrolled at BYU—Hawaii.
Some three thousand Oahu residents, many of them Church members, were on hand to greet Premier Zhao when he arrived. He seemed impressed by the warmth of those who greeted him, observers said.
Premier Zhao’s visit to the campus offered hope for long-lasting benefits to the two countries involved, university officials and members of the community commented. “It was the only cultural event that was planned for the premier’s entire visit to the U.S., and it was the single longest activity on the Chinese delegation’s entire itinerary. This was a real honor for the university and for the Church,” President Cameron said.