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Finnish octogenarian keeps finger on pulse of China
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Finland is a long, long way from China. Despite the distance, though, the Middle Kingdom is almost a home away from home for an octogenarian living in Helsinki.

Kalle Kuittinen, 81, has nearly 60 years of interest for China and inside his residence is a wide assortment of things: Chinese textbooks, pictorials, newspapers, magazines, literature, handicrafts and household wares.

A specially installed satellite dish links Kuittinen to everyday-life in China. He is able to watch a broad variety of programs about the country, particularly since the open-door and reform policies took effect.

Such up-to-the-minute information has kept Kuittinen abreast of the developments in China that he saw start in person more than 50 years ago.

As a member of the first group of international students from Europe to study in China, Kuittinen went to Beijing in 1953 to learn Mandarin at the People's University of China (now Renmin University of China) and Peking University.

In Kuittinen's cozy study are found Peking University textbooks from the 1950s and the graduation certificate conferred on him by Ma Yinchu, then the president of the famed Beijing school.

"Though retired for long now, I still follow the developments in China," said Kuittinen who has worked as an interpreter, a journalist and an activist for Finnish-Chinese friendship since his return from Beijing.

Kuittinen's working knowledge of Chinese has earned him scores of pen pals in China who write him regularly.

Ever since the inauguration of the overseas edition of the People's Daily, Kuittinen also has maintained a habit of reading the Chinese-language newspaper to keep up with happenings in China.

Kuittinen has even contributed stories to the newspaper that describe how Finnish youngsters have taken to studying the Chinese language.

Not content with what he has gleaned from the print and electronic media, Kuittinen has gone back to China several times in recent years, to see with his own eyes what is happening there.

"Beijing has become a completely different place for me," Kuittinen said. "Wherever you direct your eyeballs, you are bombarded with a bumper-to-bumper stream of motor vehicles on wider and wider streets alongside modernized and modernizing urban facilities."

He said, too, that the living standards of the Chinese people have advanced a lot since he first visited China as a student.

"The conditions of their residences are greatly improved and their clothing is now varied and colorful," he said.

As the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China approaches, Kuittinen is delving into newspaper clippings to revisit the achievements China has accomplished in the past six decades.

He is also busy comparing present-day China with the China he first saw 50 years ago.

Bidding farewell to his visitors from the Xinhua News Agency, the octogenarian said in Chinese with pure Chinese accent:

"May the Chinese people live a better and happier life!"

(Xinhua News Agency September 16, 2009)

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