Chinese Craze Spreading in BRICS over Past Ten Years An Interview with Mao Tongwen, Office Director of Confucius Institute at Xiamen University

[Source] [Time]    2017-09-08 16:24:49 

State-to-state relations thrive when there is friendship between the peoples. As people-to-people and cultural exchanges is brought into the BRICS mechanism, the mechanism has advanced from the traditional cooperation in economy and political security into a new stage, which is driven by “three wheels”. To link history with future and build a connection between trade and culture, the BRICS Meeting in Xiamen highlights richer and various people-to-people and cultural connotation, and the cultural exchanges of the BRICS countries have become a priority for development in the next decade. Over the past decade, the Chinese craze has filled the bloc and does not seem to be halting anytime soon.

In 2008, as the southern base for the international promotion of Chinese language, Xiamen University (XMU) established a Confucius institute in Stellenbosch, a small town in member South Africa. The university promotes Chinese language and culture by dispatching Chinese teachers and volunteers along with Chinese directors to the institute. According to Mao Tongwen, Office Director of the Confucius Institute at XMU, the university has already dispatched three Chinese directors to the Institute. Moreover, 1675 students have registered at the institute, and 89 of them are credit-system students. Mao said that this is an achievement because Stellenbosch is a town with a completely western lifestyle, which is different from other African cities. The locals mostly speak Spanish. He believed that the large number of learners of Chinese has exceeded the original expectation.

Student of the Confucius Institute in Stellenbosch

As the key of cultural exchanges, the Confucius Institute is essential to Chinese learning and cultural transmission, and is an integral part of China’s diplomatic philosophy. The influence of the institutes spreads from and to the countries along the route of the Belt and Road initiative to the members of the bloc. According to Mao, cooperation in economy and trade comes first. Culture bridges the cooperation and language reinforces the bridge because it enhances the mutual understanding among countries. Mao said that the prospect of the institute is to teach Chinese language and then spread Chinese culture. By promoting the friendship between the two universities, we can promote the friendship between the two countries. Through the Confucius Institute and the development in trade, there will be more and more Chinese language learners and the local people in Stellenbosch support Chinese as a career actively.

Mao Tongwen, Office Director of the Confucius Institute at XMU

Mao noted that although XMU has set up only one Confucius Institute within the BRICS countries, but the promotion of Chinese language in other BRICS countries is scheduled. Take Russia as an example, as Mao Tongwen told the journalist, a large number of young sinologists have been cultivated despite the country not having any XMU backed Confucius institute. Su Mengxia is a Russian girl with a Chinese husband and lives in Xiamen. She works with Sinology and is versed in Chinese culture.

With the proposal of “BRICS+”, the circle of friends of BRICS is expanding. Many youngsters from the BRICS countries come to China for further study. At present, there are nearly 1,000 students from the BRICS countries in XMU. Apart from Chinese language studies, they work in more and more fields, including traditional Chinese medicine and economy. They not only study in the institute, but also in other faculties, Mao said.

After the BRICS meeting, Mao said that apart from the discussion on establishing institutes in other BRICS countries, they would explore more approaches to promoting Chinese language learning. For example, they might set up Chinese classes for pupils and middle school students. They will try to pave access for people in the BRICS countries to learn Chinese language without applying for credits.

(Story by Sun Bingjie,, Xiamen, September 5th, 2017)


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