“China Craze” sweeps across Latin America

[Source]    CRI Online [Time]    2015-06-09 17:08:36 


Executive Director of the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center Mr. Roberto Lafontaine during the interview

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s official visits to Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Chile from May 18 to 26 local time have not only facilitated the upgrade of economic and trade cooperation between China and Latin America but greatly promoted the people-to-people exchange between the two sides. The last stop of Premier Li’s trip, Chile, has the earliest non-governmental cultural institution friendly to China ever founded — Chile-China Culture Institution (Instituto Chileno Chino de Cultura), the very first Confucius Institute in Latin America and the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center, all of which have played a significant role in spreading Chinese culture in Chile.


Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center, Santiago, capital of Chile

The “Chinese fever” is now on the rise in Chile. These days, it has become a fashion for the Chileans to learn about Chinese culture. Precisely for this reason, the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center was inaugurated in Santiago, capital city of Chile, in May 2014 as the second center overseas established by Confucius Institute Headquarters after the Confucius Institute U.S. Center.

Mr. Roberto Lafontaine, Executive Director of the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center, noted that China has enjoyed a stronger economy and a higher international status today, and on this basis, China has pushed forward its comprehensive cooperation with Latin America, yielding remarkable fruits in cultural exchange between the two sides. Mr. Lafontaine said, “A total of fifteen Latin American countries have set up Confucius Institutes, including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia. There are 35 Confucius Institutes and 18 Confucius Classrooms in Latin America now. Meanwhile, these Confucius Institutes have opened teaching institutions affiliated with them in their respective countries. Currently, the average number of the registered students at the Confucius Institutes in Latin America has reached 70,000, and the number of the people who attend various lectures on Chinese culture or art classes at the Confucius Institutes in Latin America has reached over one million each year.”


Logo of the Confucius Institute Latin America Regional Center

According to Mr. Lafontaine, although Brazil’s largest city São Paulo owned the biggest Confucius Institute in Latin America, Chile was eventually selected to be the location for the Regional Center. Today, the Chinese has become the second most popular foreign language in Chile after the English. Hanban has established a partnership with the Chilean Ministry of Education. A large number of Chinese language teachers have been dispatched from China to Chilean public high schools and universities to offer Chinese language courses. At present, over 40,000 registered students are studying Chinese at the two Confucius Institutes in Chile and some 80,000 people at other various schools or private training institutions.


A poster of Chinese language courses offered by the Regional Center

Mr. Lafontaine remarked that the “Chinese fever” in Chile is only a part of the bigger “China craze” sweeping across the entire Latin America. As China’s economy and “soft power” have continuously progressed, China is becoming more open than ever to Latin America. In turn, an increasing number of Latin Americans wish to know more about China. “The most popular courses offered by Confucius Institutes in Latin America are those concerning China’s economy and trade in that the economic and trade cooperation between China and Latin America has almost seeped into every area in Latin America. A good many Latin Americans more or less need knowledge about China’s economy and trade. Generally, they will learn some basic Chinese first, and then the relevant business knowledge. The Confucius Institutes’ diverse training classes regarding Chinese cuisine, traditional culture and art are also very well-received by the locals.”

As for Premier Li’s visits to Latin America, Mr. Lafontaine said that the Chinese are quite familiar with famous Latin American writers and poets such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda and their works, while few in Latin America know the names of celebrated Chinese writers or their works. This time, several renowned Chinese writers came to visit Latin America with Premier Li, which was a new move aimed at deepening the people-to-people exchange between China and Latin America. As a promoter of Chinese culture, the Regional Center will strive to help it succeed. “This year the Center has been planning to organize exchange activities between Chinese and Latin American writers. At the end of this month, we’ll invite three Chinese writes to visit Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Meanwhile, we intend to invite a second batch of Chinese writers to Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica. In September, we’ll hold an exchange meeting in Santiago for both Chinese and Latin American writers.” said Mr. Lafontaine.  

Written by Sun Yu


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