Hu Biliang, executive director of the Belt and Road School at Beijing Normal University has spent nearly 10 years gathering some of the world's most brilliant minds together to cultivate future leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as run think tanks to research the political and economic issues related to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Inside an inconspicuous gray building housing the BRS, photographs of distinguished professors at the school - Zlatko Lagumdzija, former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djoomart Otorbaev, former Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan and Rajat M. Nag, former managing director general of the Asian Development Bank to name but a few - line the walls. All of them regularly fly to Beijing to give talks to students at the BRS.
According to Hu, most of the students are officials from government bodies in countries involved in the BRI. The school, which offers postgraduate and doctorate programs in public management and business administration, has nearly 150 graduates from more than 150 countries to date.
"We are going to set more subjects for foreign students to draw lessons from China's experience of reform and opening-up to contribute to the development of their own countries," he says.
In an effort to expand the school and the scope of its think tanks, the 58-year-old has spent the last few years attending no less than 1150 conferences, symposiums and forums at home and abroad annually, and he usually doesn't leave his office before 11 pm. The executive director is attending the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation which started on Thursday.
"I feel energetic every day as I'm right at the center of the BRI now. I want to keep pace with the times and build on our strengths to work toward creating a better society," he says spiritedly.
"Keeping abreast with the times" is not just a core value the BRS highlights on its website, but also the personal life motto Hu has stuck to over the past four decades.
Growing up in an impoverished and remote lakeside village in Hubei province, Hu says he used to think about how he could turn around the fortunes of his hometown as he walked along the paths that crisscross the fields there.
It was this notion that motivated him to study rural economies and policies at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in 1979, shortly after China started its process of economic reform by launching the household contract responsibility system in rural areas.
Four years later, he decided to go a step further in the field and entered the Rural Development Institute at the China Academy of Social Sciences as a researcher in 1983. There he was given the opportunity to travel extensively around the country to investigate the problems confronting rural development in the early stages of the reform and opening-up process.
"Because of the undeveloped transport infrastructure, I often suffered from carsickness when bumping along over the rough roads on a bus from morning to night," Hu recollects. "Although we had to face a range of difficulties during those trips, we were still passionately interested in solving problems, such as how to increase agricultural production and how to deal with the underemployment in China's rural areas."
In 1987, he traveled abroad for the first time where he spent seven months in the Philippines researching the local land and banking systems, farmers' incomes and other economic issues.