President Xi Jinping encouraged students take pride in their cultural heritage and repeated his theme of working towards the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" during a visit to Peking University yesterday to mark Youth Day.
It commemorates protests in 1919 when students rallied over what they felt was their government's weak stance on the Treaty of Versailles.
The demonstrations were part of the May Fourth Movement that unleashed the modernisation of China, including a call for the adoption of Western-style democracy and science.
State media reports of Xi's visit, however, focused more on his call for the strengthening of cultural heritage. He said every young generation had their own opportunities and challenges and that students should chart their lives accordingly, state television reported.
Young peoples' values would determine society's future values, he said.
Xi visited the university's humanities building and complimented Tang Yijie, a renowned 87-year-old philosopher, on his contribution to Chinese culture.
He spent about an hour talking to university students, who were selected from different departments, according to The Beijing News.
Zeng Ge, an undergraduate student from the social science department who took part, said he was impressed Xi mentioned "cultural confidence" several times and had shared anecdotes about his own experiences as a student.
"He hoped young students would have firm faith and work hard to achieve the Chinese dream and great rejuvenation of the nation," Zeng told the newspaper.
Zeng said the university gave students advance notice of an important visitor but they only learned it would be the president on Saturday.
The students were not assigned seats, the report said.
"I always felt he was very people-friendly because he brought his wife to visit other countries," Zeng said.
Before the talk, Xi attended a performance by several students that featured a reading of a lyric penned by Mao Zedong , Xinhua reported.
"I am very touched by your strong sense of responsibility and pride in our history," Xi said. "I wish you all to take the historical responsibility as [the] youth of [our] time."