China’s Development Draws Attention from Switzerland, Confucius Institutes Promote Cultural Communication

[Source] [Time]    2018-05-07 09:14:12 

Since the reform and opening-up 40 years ago, China’s fast-growing economy has drawn global attention. With the improvement of China’s national strength, all people around the world have taken great interest in Chinese culture. Driven by the rising “China craze”, Confucius Institutes are established to serve as bridges for cultural exchanges between China and the world.

Since the establishment of the first Confucius Institute in Seoul, South Korea 2004, the Confucius Institutes worldwide enjoy a thriving development. Based on Hanban statistics (up to December 31st, 2017), 525 Confucius Institutes, and 1113 Confucius Classrooms have been established in 146 countries and regions across the world. In a Chinese network interview of three directors of the Confucius Institute at University of Geneva, Wang Xiaolu, Chinese Director, expressed her wishes that the Institute could provide necessary help and services for Swiss people to have better knowledge of Chinese culture and society.

China’s Rapid Development Raises “Chinese Craze” in Switzerland

40 years of reform and opening-up has witnessed the constant strengthening of China’s comprehensive national strength. Meanwhile, China has drawn increasing global attention. Professor Xie Honghua, a teacher and foreign Vice Director of the Confucius Institute at University of Geneva, has been teaching in the Chinese Department of University of Geneva for over 30 years. She observed that when the Chinese Department at University of Geneva was established in the 1970s, it offered courses like ancient Chinese, Chinese traditional religion and culture. Students from the department were highly interested in this distant oriental civilization, but not knowing much about the country at that time. Most young people see China’s development prospects and its significant role on the international arena, so they choose to learn Chinese and its culture for their employment advantages.

On March 24th, there were more than 180 participants signing up for the HSK held by the Confucius Institute at University of Geneva, over half of whom were primary and middle school students. According to Li Ru, a Chinese teacher of the Collège du Léman, most of those students followed the advice of their parents to learn Chinese. Li said, “Currently, in Switzerland, Chinese courses are offered in many high schools, especially in private schools. As the era of China is coming, more parents encourage their kids to learn Chinese language. There are four Chinese courses per week in the Collège du Léman. Highly motivated in learning Chinese, students also feel proud of their command of the language.” Li also mentioned. In Switzerland, good command of Chinese language is a favorable condition for both university and job applications.

Silvan Herren, a student of the International Relationship College of University of Geneva, who took the HSK(level II), told the journalist that he had learned Chinese language in the university for two years, “I’m deeply attracted by China. I had been to Beijing. I dream to be a diplomat and learning Chinese will help a lot. To me, Chinese language has become more and more important.”

As a pre-requisite for scholarship application, HSK result facilitates international students’ further study in China, and serves as an index for teaching assessment in many Confucius Institutes. The test result is also an important reference for staff recruitment, salary raise and promotion in more and more governments and transnational enterprises.

The Confucius Institute at University of Geneva, a Win-win Program

Basile Zimmermann, foreign Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva, said in an interview, “The Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva is a win-win program. On the one hand, it meets the urgent demand of many Swiss for knowing about China under the new global economic and political situation. On the other hand, China also hopes that the world would get to know more about Chinese culture through the Confucius Institutes so as to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding. ”

Basile told that for decades China has been developing at an astonishing speed, which is reflected not only in economic strength, but also in technology advancement and academic development. During his visits to Chinese universities, Basile found that many teachers were engaged in advanced academic research and the teaching proficiency in Tsinghua University and Peking University was much higher than that of many European universities. “I firmly believe that China will lead the future of scientific development.” said Basile in the interview, “In the face of such astonishing development in China, it is a pity that few people in Switzerland really understand this country. Therefore, it is very necessary to strengthen academic and cultural exchanges between the two countries.”

To Wang Xiaolu, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at University of Geneva, at present, most westerners have contradictory view towards China. When they praise China’s rapid development and remarkable achievements, they don’t understand traditional Chinese culture, which is totally different from theirs. Nevertheless, nowadays the young people are more open-minded and eager to explore China, especially modern China. Wang said she was willing to see these changes. She also hoped that the Confucius Institutes could provide necessary help and services for them to understand Chinese culture and society.

Young People Focusing on Modern China; Chinese Experience Inspiring New Ideas

Basile said in the interview that the Swiss's interest in China has undergone a shift from traditional culture and religion to contemporary economy and society. He noticed it. Hence, at the beginning of the founding of the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva, he had an idea to focus on contemporary Chinese academic research, Chinese culture and society, and gradually put it into practice.

Since the establishment of the Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva in 2011, there have been hundreds of public academic lectures on various fields about China, covering religion, mathematics, architecture, sociology, music, literature, law, environment, traditional Chinese medicine, and psychoanalytic science. In addition, Swiss governments, more companies and institutions are willing to strengthen their exchanges with China. The Confucius Institute at the University of Geneva has become a well-deserved consultant for these institutions.

Basile also mentioned that in the past 40 years, Western countries have negative voices on China’s achievements. Some people are unwilling to accept the fact that China has become much stronger and more influential in the global arena. They want to immerse themselves in the fantasy of dominant Western power. He told the reporters frankly, “Personally I haven’t seen China’s national strength until my visit to China in 2005. Since then, I have really opened my eyes and believed that the greatest merit of the Chinese people is that they know their drawbacks and are willing to accept their harsh realities and try their best to solve the problem. At present, Western society and institutions are at the bottleneck of development. China's experience and wisdom may offer us inspiration that deserves our attention and respect.”

At the same time, Wang Xiaolu, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at University of Geneva, also expressed her feelings in her trip to the UK in 1999. Back then, China’s economic strength and people’s living standards were still far below the level of European countries and the United States. At that time, Chinese people were not confident in their national strength. However, in the past 20 years, China has developed at a breathless pace, and it has been catching up with the western world in many aspects such as economy, society, science and technology, and even has surpassed them in some fields. “Now I come to Switzerland to work as the Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at University of Geneva. I can feel the increasing interest of the Swiss in China and the changes in attitudes of young people toward China. China has a history of more than 5,000 years. We believe and will promote it.” Wang said in an interview. “Many thoughts of the Western world are highly respected in the Chinese traditional culture. In fact, the Eastern and Western culture share many similarities but are expressed in different ways. It is hoped that the Institute will offer more opportunities to deepen communication and understanding between the two sides for further consensus and cooperation.

(Story by Zhao Lisha,