Joint Conference of Asian Confucius Institutes along Belt and Road Kicks off in Bangkok
Confucius Institutes, Pioneers in the Practice of “Silk Road Spirit”

[Source]    People's Daily [Time]    2017-09-15 16:30:10 

Core Reading

The Joint Conference of Asian Confucius Institutes along the Belt and Road was held in Bangkok from September 9th to 10th. Sponsored by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and co-organized by the Confucius Institute at Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, the conference had the presence of representatives from 77 Confucius institutes and 14 Confucius Classrooms of 30 Asian countries as well as some school representatives of Chinese cooperative institutions. Representatives present held in-depth discussion on issues including the “Belt and Road”, the development of the Confucius Institute, and construction of teams of local teachers etc. The institutes have achieved a rapid growth in Asia and the influence has been constantly increasing, which can be conducive to laying a good foundation for the development in the coming decade.

Expanding Scale to Meet the Three-dimensional Needs of Chinese Learning at Various Levels

Upholding the principles that Confucius Institutes are jointly built, owned, managed and shared by both the Chinese and host institutions at heart, the institutes have set up a bridge of language and cultural communication among Chinese and foreign countries and made important contributions to the promotion of multicultural exchanges. Viewed from the development of the Confucius Institutes in Asian countries, the average number of students in each institute in Asia was around 4,000 in 2016, nearly twice as many as the global average of 2200. In the first half of this year, the institutes in Asia and the classrooms have offered Chinese language courses for more than 7200 times and enrolled nearly 230,000 students. The scale of the institutes located in Asia has enjoyed smooth growth and expansion with an increasingly higher level of operation.

Xia Jianhui, Deputy Chief Executive of the Confucius Institutes Headquarter and Deputy Director-General of Hanban delivered a speech at the conference and said that the Confucius institutes in Asian countries can be characterized in a wide range of areas and offer a variety of courses and languages. These institutes can meet the three-dimensional needs of Chinese learning at all levels and, at the same time, actively adapt to the demand of diversification of society, cultivate and train high-level professionals in translation, simultaneous interpretation and other senior professionals like local Chinese teachers and Chinese medicine technicians. The institutes also carry out researches in Chinese learning and language education and application.

As it was introduced, many Confucius Institutes not just have promoted the exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and foreign cooperative institutions; some of them also provide comprehensive services for government departments such as academic studies, talent training and training guidance. Lv Jian, Chinese Ambassador to Thailand cited Thailand as an example and said that Chinese teaching in Thailand has not only entered the systems of basic education, vocational education, and higher education, but also opened a large variety of Chinese classes, such as Chinese classes of the Royal Palace Secretariat, Chinese classes for the Immigration Bureau, Chinese classes for Officials, and for the Department of Education in Bangkok City, all of which have achieved remarkable results.

There is no doubt that the role played by the institutes is growing. Deputy Education Minister Panadda Diskul of Thailand said that Thailand’s cooperation with China has been deepening, covering various areas such as politics, economy, culture and education. He also said that Confucius institutes in Thailand are the fastest growing ones in Asian countries and have created better conditions for enhancing cooperation between Thailand and China.

Learning Chinese to Lay a Solid Foundation for Building the “Belt and Road”

Since the proposal of the “Belt and Road” initiative, the Confucius Institute has become a pioneer in the practice of the “Silk Road Spirit”, integrating its own development within the initiative. Up to now, 51 countries participating in the “Belt and Road” construction have set up 135 Confucius Institutes and 129 Confucius Classrooms.

During the “Belt and Road” Forum held in the duration of the conference, the participants discussed the opportunities and challenges for the development of Confucius Institutes brought by the “Belt and Road” initiative. Zaffar Mueen Nasar, President of the University of Punjab in Pakistan told People’s Daily that only with the understanding of the Chinese history and culture, can we gain a better and more profound understanding of the “Belt and Road” initiative and China’s new concept of global governance. The Confucius Institute is an important link to the spread of Chinese culture and a crucial bond to enhance mutual understanding.

Kazakhstan is a pioneering country of the “Belt and Road”. Abzhapparova Bibikhadisha, Foreign Director of Confucius Institute at Eurasian National University said that since institute’s establishment a decade ago, more than 5,000 students have been trained, and the proposal of the “Belt and Road” initiative has triggered a boom in Chinese learning in the region. The local people have formed positive awareness and attitude towards Chinese people and Chinese enterprises.

In Jordan, the “Belt and Road” initiative enabled the Jordanians to see a China that is more closely linked with the world. Muhammad Ghazuof, Director the Confucius Institute at Philadelphia University in Jordan told People’s Daily that China’s electronics, machinery and other products are very marketable in Jordan, and he hoped that more Jordanians can enter into business with Chinese people.

Confucius Institutes in Asian countries have taken practical actions to make the “Belt and Road” initiative deeply rooted in people’s minds. The Confucius Institute at Ateneo de Manila University held a series of lectures on “Belt and Road”, hosted the “Belt and Road” Forum and shot the documentary of King of Sulu and China. The Confucius Institute at Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages in Uzbekistan responded to the “Belt and Road” initiative by successfully holding three sessions of International Academic Symposium on Universal Values and National Values on the Great Silk Road: Language, Culture and Education since 2015. The Confucius Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia has introduced the Chinese culture and the “Belt and Road” initiative among the local governments, Thai army and schools, and organized to translate the Cambodian version of books such as Customs of Cambodia and Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.

“The cooperative focus of the ‘Belt and Road’ lies in ‘five links’ and what we are doing is to promote people-to-people bonds. This can lay a solid foundation of public opinion for the construction of the ‘Belt and Road’, said Chea Munyrith, Foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia.

Cultivating Versatile Talents to Realize the Sustainable Development of Confucius Institutes

After 10 years of rapid development, Confucius Institutes have entered into a new phase of quality enhancement, connotation deepening, tailoring development according to the local conditions and achieving characteristic development as well as upgrading its system to a sort of “2.0 version”. How to improve the quality of Chinese teaching, cultivate versatile talents and achieve the sustainable development of other institutes has become the topic of concern of all the participants of the conference.

The in-depth development of the “Belt and Road” has significantly increased Asian countries’ demand on the professional and technical personnel with proficiency in Chinese and foreign languages. Ma Lei, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at Kyrgyz National University pointed out frankly that Kyrgyzstan is facing a talent shortage that is not only in the language field, but also those professionals who can both understand Chinese and possess technical skills. Zhang Daojian, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute in Islamabad also said that in order to promote the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan needs a number of talents who are familiar with China to dock with Chinese government departments and corporations. Many young people in of the region would like to go to China to learn natural science and machine manufacturing so as to meet future needs in their jobs.

In order to adapt to this change, many institutes explored the “Chinese + technology” model on the basis of language training. The Confucius Institute at KhonKaen University in Thailand has made an attempt in this regard and with the construction of the China-Thailand railway cooperation, the Confucius Institute at KhonKaen University launched the “Chinese + High-speed Rail” training model, under which joint training agreements have been signed with 12 Chinese vocational schools and 108 Thai students have been dispatched to China to study high-speed rail related technology. Hu Lin, Chinese Director said that the Thai society has an eager demand for versatile talents and technical personnel. Besides technical personnel in railway networks, the Chinese talents are still lacking in aircraft maintenance, hotel services, and tourism management and so on. In the future, the Confucius Institute will update the “Chinese + High-speed Rail” model to “Chinese + Technology" mode so as to meet the needs of all kinds of vocational and technical Chinese language talents.

Some representatives also proposed that the Confucius Institute should offer more professions to promote its transformation and upgrading and enhance the brand effect. Liu Tao, Chinese Director of Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies, Uzbekistan said that in the future, the Confucius Institute can set up more professions which are closely connected with the local market, such as international trade, logistics, tourism, etc. In the next decade, the Confucius Institute will usher in a higher level of development.

(Story by Ding Zi, Sun Guangyong and Yu Yichun, People's Daily, Page 22, September 12th, 2017)