Citations and Speeches


166th Congregation (2003)

XU Kuangdi
Doctor of Laws

The Public Orator, Dr Elaine Yee-lin Ho, wrote and delivered the following citation:

More than two thousand years ago in China, during the Qin and Han Dynasties, the Chinese people invented and developed the process by which iron could be converted into steel, a process that is called the "hundred refinings method", and this method was widely used in making and perfecting swords and blades. In the 19th century, in Britain, Henry Bessemer discovered ways of mass-producing steel inexpensively, and this discovery contributed significantly to the Industrial Revolution in the western world. In the career and achievements of Xu Kuangdi as engineer and metallurgist, we see not only the best legacy of the human inventive spirit, but also its positive application in advancing civilization and society and improving people's lives.

Xu Kuangdi was born in 1937 in Tongxiang in Zhejiang province. He came from a scholarly family and the interest in scholarship and later, in innovative research development characterizes his career as an academic and university teacher. After secondary education in Hangzhou, he enrolled at the Beijing Institute of Iron and Steel Engineering. At the Institute, he met his fellow student and future wife, Xu Luoping. On graduation in 1959, he was employed in the Institute's Metallurgy Department as Teaching Assistant. In 1963, he joined the Shanghai Institute of Technology, rising within seven years from Teaching Assistant to Deputy Director of the Laboratory for Refinery.

In 1972, Xu Kuangdi joined the Metallurgy Department of the Shanghai Institute of Mechanical Engineering. During the seventies, he was sent to work in steel processing factories, and forced labour in Fangyan county in Anhui province. It was a period of extreme hardship which tested his character and spirit of endurance. But it also enabled him to experience at first-hand the destitution of the people in one of the poorest and most underdeveloped areas in China. The experience strengthened his resolution to put his professional knowledge in the service of the people, to help bring about technological changes that could enhance productivity, and open up training opportunities so that even the most disadvantaged could acquire the knowledge to improve their own living conditions.

It is this resolution which inspired and fuelled his work at the institutes of higher learning where he taught, and as he began to take up more administrative and managerial responsibilities in the nineteen eighties. Between 1980 and 1986, he was Professor, Deputy Director and then Director of the Metallurgy Department at Shanghai Polytechnical University. This was an important period in Xu Kuangdi's professional life for it was during this time that he made the key breakthroughs in jet-metallurgy for which he is internationally renowned. His six technological achievements and the academic papers he published on special steel production, electro-metallurgy and jet-metallurgy in prestigious international journals established his reputation as a world leader in his field. For his innovation and expertise, he was invited to Sweden, to work as Deputy Chief Engineer and Technical Manager for an industrial corporation between 1984-5, and also to engage in dialogue and exchange about technological developments that could be of help in advancing his contribution to modernization in China.

On his return from Sweden, Xu Kuangdi became Executive Deputy President of Shanghai Polytechnical University, a post he held from 1986 to 1989. As Shanghai forged ahead in its ambitious plans to become a world-class metropolis, the Municipal Government realized that there was urgent need for a highly trained human infrastructure, especially in engineering and science and technology. For help in planning and implementing policies that would enrich Shanghai's human resources, the Municipal Government turned to Xu Kuangdi on whose commitment to education, the city and the welfare of its citizens they knew they could rely. In 1989, Xu Kuangdi was persuaded to leave university life and to take up concurrent appointments as Deputy Director of the Shanghai Municipal Education and Public Health Office and Director of the Municipal Bureau for Higher Education. The appointments marked Xu Kuangdi's direct participation in public policy, and his rapid advancement in public and political life.

His achievements were quickly recognised in his appointments to the Directorship of the Shanghai Municipal Planning Committee in 1991, and as Vice-Mayor of Shanghai Municipality in 1992, and Mayor in 1995. He served as Mayor until 2001. During his mayoralty, Xu Kuangdi introduced policies for strengthening the city's service sectors and to bring about fundamental change in its economic operational mechanism. At the same time, he oversaw remarkable improvements in urban infrastructure including the renovation of old urban districts, building of a modern land communications network, and the completion of the Pudong International Airport. Construction of an information port, and planning for a new deepwater port also began during his term of office. His policy making and his engineering experience came together in an equal attention to the material structure and human superstructure of his great city.

At the same time, there was further opening to foreign countries and regions so that of the top 100 industrial corporations in the world, 59 had invested in the Pudong Area by 1999. As the dynamic leader of the team directing Shanghai's recent phenomenal growth, Mayor Xu's mission, as he states in his speech to the participants of the Fortune Global Forum in 1999, is 'to create a policy environment encouraging enterprises and individuals to go in for scientific and technological innovation and establish and improve a market mechanism of integrating the enterprises, universities and scientific research institutions so as to increase (Shanghai's) power of technological innovation'. In this mission, one can see the reformist commitment of Professor Xu the educator, a commitment which he transformed into the public intellectual's dedicated service to the state, the country and its citizens.

In recognition of Professor Xu's outstanding achievements in the field of metallurgy, he was elected Academician, Chinese Academy of Engineering, and in 2002, President of the Academy. As President, Professor Xu is planning to set up an academic body for young experts, and to foster communication between younger and more senior engineers and technologists in a cross-generational effort to bring greater prosperity and wealth to the citizens of China. His abilities as a leader of the nation are most recently recognised in his election as Vice-Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Mr Pro-Chancellor, for his achievements in engineering, life-long dedication to education reform and the dissemination of knowledge to the people, and for his distinguished record of public service to the country, I am honoured and privileged to present Professor Xu Kuangdi for the award of the Degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.