President Xi Jingping
Credit: 2015 Alabastro Photography/Flickr

It’s nearly graduation time around the country, which can only mean one thing: Boring commencement speeches to indifferent students.

The “Coronavirus Commencements” will be different, however, because graduates will not go through a public processional of pomp and circumstance. They also won’t dine with grandparents who traveled great distances to get to the ceremony. Travel curtailed, campuses closed, bookstores stuck with unsold “Class of 2020” swag. Graduation speakers will stay home to deliver their laugh lines and sage advice as webcammed words of wisdom.

Into this breach, let’s invite an atypical commencement speaker to give a universal graduation speech that can be simulcast to every U.S. institution of higher learning. Who should that person be? The guy who paid for more undergraduates’ educations in America than any other single individual: China’s “Core” leader and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping.

At the start of the 2020 academic year, approximately 360,000 students from the People’s Republic of China attended American colleges, most of them paying full freight for tuition, books, housing and food. The overall estimate of what the United States earns from all the foreign students coming to America for education comes to around $39 billion a year. Not all of that is from China, but a lot of it is. So let’s hear what their sugar daddy has to say.

In lieu of a CCP-vetted speech to the many Chinese students and other attendees, here’s my best shot. I include both the text and subtext of a potential Zoomed speech to the graduating classes all across America next month:

“Graduates of the Class of 2020, congratulations! This is your time.

I am told that speeches in America should begin with a joke, but this is not a common practice in Beijing. In fact, we never joke. Not about how powerful we are or our plans for world domination.

We do not have William Shakespeare, “Will & Grace,” or Will Ferrell. What we have is iron will.

China’s cultural strength and fortitude are born from your parents’ generation and sacrifice. They suffered through a century of humiliation, living through extreme poverty and eating what little they had to eat out of an iron rice bowl.

Your generation, however, is a privileged one. For those of you watching who are Chinese nationals, you come from single-child homes. My generation’s one-child policy made you all privileged princelings who have never known want, always experienced economic growth and who had the extraordinary luck to go overseas to study. You got to learn, see and live in America.

Please bring back to China your technical training, especially your insights into artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Bring back our Middle Kingdom’s power and help re-establish the privilege of a nation destined for greatness and global leadership.

You have a great number of gifts and learning that you must bring back to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzen and Wuhan.

But as you bring back your valuable knowledge, there are some things you must leave behind: Do not bring back your dangerous ideas of liberal democracy.

Leave behind whatever decadent thoughts you have appropriated. Muzzle any new instincts you have developed for free speech, religion or assembly. Purge from your hearts any passion or interest of the need for self-expression over the collective common good. Remember the primacy of the Communist Party.

Yes, we have reports from our student committees, consular corps and others unknown to you that some of your student comrades experimented with cannabinoids and studied anti-authoritarian theories. Some of you have toyed with direct democratic governance, participated on campus and in the classroom in discussions surrounding the Tiananmen Square events of 1989, Falun Gong, Winnie the Pooh, Taiwan independence, Uighur detention or the Dalai Lama. Take these learnings and your newfound understanding of our adversary and apply them for the greater good. Take them with you to help achieve China’s greatness.

This is our time.

We will use the Trump era as an opportunity to woo Western allies. We will confound the conversation surrounding China’s culpability in the coronavirus crisis. We will cry racism whenever our national interests are threatened and wherever our newfound confidence and regional hegemony is questioned.

You have all profited from an undeniably strong American higher-education program. In this, the United States continues to excel. The price of that education has been high and unattainable for many American students.

China has invested in you and in our nation’s future. The return on that investment is the unarticulated understanding we established at the start of your foreign education journey. It is now your obligation and duty to help your nation become globally more productive, competitive and successful.

Your collective strength, wisdom and vision will assure that our party, state and future will remain inseparable. Together we will achieve the Chinese Dream.

This is, after all, my time.”

Markos Kounalakis

Markos Kounalakis is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a former NBC Radio Moscow correspondent and the author of Freedom Isn’t Free: The Price of World Order (Anthem Press, 2022).