“China Craze” behind Overseas “Chinese Craze”

[Source]    Guangming Online- Guangming Daily [Time]    2018-06-06 11:41:51 

In recent years, as Chinese steps up the language popularity ladder worldwide, the media home and abroad has expanded coverage on such phenomenon. Since the influence and communication capability of a language demonstrates the national comprehensive strength, the overseas "Chinese craze" is essentially China’s global appeals in promoting win-win cooperation, shouldering responsibilities and building confidence in its culture.

On October 28th, 2017, competitors performing in the final of the 10th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students (Xinhua News Agency)

Mutual Benefit and Win-Win Results Are Important Driving Forces

Foreigners are still keen on learning Chinese despite its difficulty. The fundamental reason for the "Chinese craze" overseas is that China’s national comprehensive strength and international influence have seen a great jump. The fundamental driving forces of the overseas "Chinese craze" are the mutual benefit and win-win results in economy.

First, Chinese-funded overseas enterprises are in a greater need of local employees proficient in Chinese. Employees who can speak Chinese have much more advantages of getting hired and being well paid especially in international trading enterprises. The language advantage in making career choices guides young people overseas to decide which foreign language to learn.

Second, the number of Chinese tourists with strong purchasing power traveling abroad has achieved new heights. It has become a reality in the market that foreign salespersons have to learn to speak Chinese. Due to the economic and cultural exchanges, some salespersons have become aware that they need to know Chinese culture, Chinese people’s life style, behavior characteristics and cultural traditions.

On May 27th, Swiss preliminaries of the 17th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students and the 11th Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students being held in Bern, Switzerland. Contestants performing martial arts (Photo by Chinese Embassy in Switzerland)

In 2017, China’s National Day was hailed as the “Chinese Day of the World”. Chinese tourists were surprised to find that many shops overseas have a sign on the door saying that payments can be made through Alipay or Wechat Pay, and that even foreign salespersons could give shopping guidance in Mandarin. Despite not being able to conduct in-depth conversations, foreign friends in different colors could greet with “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye”, making Chinese tourists feel at home.

Meanwhile, some forward-looking foreign families are so positive about China’s development that they think a good command of Chinese can help their children get a better start in life. With that in mind, many parents focus on developing their child’s Chinese language competence. As the main difficulties of learning Chinese are identification of Chinese characters and pronunciation of four tones which require immersion in a Chinese language environment, housekeepers who know Chinese are particularly popular because they can also work as senior private teachers with higher income than common housekeepers. In order to keep an environment for continual Chinese learning, these households also use a lot of intelligent voice services and mobile softwares that support translation between Chinese and other languages.

Confucius Institutes Are the Booster

Since the establishment of first three Confucius Institutes in three foreign countries in 2004, over 500 Confucius Institutes and 1000 Confucius Classrooms have been set up in more than 140 countries around the world over the past 14 years. Confucius Institutes boasting rapid development have been a shiny greeting card of China.

In recent years, overseas Confucius Institutes have been increasingly standardized, transforming from an extensive form to an intensive one. The resources of the universities in countries where Confucius Institutes are located are utilized to help Chinese to be adopted into the universities’ curriculum. The institutes attract students by holding featured cultural activities and establishing awarding mechanisms. Moreover, the sustainable healthy development of Chinese language education is achieved through the training of local Chinese teachers. Confucius Institutes have made great efforts in the design of Chinese courses overseas such as setting up beginner courses, intermediate courses and advanced courses for students at different levels, and adopting scene teaching methods to facilitate effective interaction between teachers and students according to the existing Chinese textbooks which have been translated into the foreign country’s language. At the same time, Confucius Institutes have been actively establishing teaching points at primary schools, secondary schools and elderly colleges, providing featured courses and implementing various teaching plans with different orientations according to the characteristics of learners. For example, task-based teaching is mainly adopted in featured courses like business, tourism, Traditional Chinese Medicine and music, which enables students to gain more confidence from the tasks of simulation scenes under teachers' guidance and apply what they have learnt in real life.

Under the close cooperation of Chinese universities and foreign universities which jointly run Confucius Institutes, cultural exchanges between the young people of China and foreign countries have deepened, facilitating the in-depth development of Chinese. With support of the normal projects of Hanban, exchanges between outstanding students and youth groups of China and foreign countries have been expanded through winter and summer camps in all forms in China, projects of speaking tours of experts, art performance tours and cultural exhibition tours, and financial aids of subsidies and scholarships from the Chinese government and overseas Chinese Bridge projects, which deepens their friendship, opens their international horizon, and inspires them to consider the responsibilities of contemporary youths from a new perspective.

Cultural Confidence Is Spiritual Strength

The report to the 19th CPC National Congress pointed out that cultural confidence is a strength which is more fundamental, deeper and more enduring in the development of a country and a nation. With its rising international status and international influence, China has been shouldering more responsibilities as a major country. China’s peaceful rise aims to build a community with a shared future for mankind through win-win cooperation rather than seeking hegemony through military intervention, which is widely recognized by the international community.

As more and more countries are willing to enhance exchanges and cooperation with China, they have to understand Chinese culture that supports China to pursue further achievements. Chinese culture is the Chinese spirit, value and strength built by the creative transformation and innovative development throughout the last five thousand years, and the absorption of fine foreign culture. Its core trait is cooperation and dialogue rather than zero-sum game. As language is the carrier of culture, only when people know about Chinese can they understand Chinese culture and the idea of a community with a shared future for mankind in which human beings cooperate with each other and share weals and woes together. The people-oriented idea of Chinese culture will become an in-depth subject of overseas "Chinese craze" in the future.

(By Wei Wanlei, Executive Professor of School of Humanities of University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the first Chinese Director of Confucius Institute at University of Gdańsk in Poland)

(By Wei Wanlei, Guangming Daily, Page 12, May 30th, 2018)

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