South African People and Overseas Chinese’s Living Proof of Closer People-to-People Exchanges and Deeper Friendship

[Source]    People’s Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2018-08-01 10:07:42 

State-to-state relations thrive when there is friendship between the peoples. Over 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa, there is no lack of vivid stories of friendly exchanges between the two peoples, despite their geographical distance. A few days ago, our journalist interviewed locals and overseas Chinese in Johannesburg, Pretoria and other places in South Africa, who talked about their own personal experiences demonstrating how mutual understanding and close cooperation have benefitted both sides.

Learning Chinese Benefits Future

Chinese knots, ink and wash, kungfu fans, red lanterns ... Chinese elements can be seen everywhere upon entering a building near Auckland park in Johannesburg. This is where the Confucius Institute of Johannesburg University is located, which was jointly founded by Johannesburg University and Nanjing Tech University. It is one of the five Confucius Institutes in South Africa.

An African girl in a blue floral skirt and with her hair in plaits approached the journalist with a shy smile. Surprising everybody in good Chinese she said: “Hello. My name is Wei An, a student majoring in biochemistry and botany at Johannesburg University.”

Wei An has studied Chinese and Chinese traditional culture at the Confucius Institute for less than five months. In May this year, she won the first prize in the South African finals of the Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency competition for Foreign College Students with a Chinese speech entitled “Building a Community of Shared Future”. As a result, she had the opportunity to go to China to participate in the finals in early July.

“It was my first time to go to China. I visited the Tiananmen Square and climbed the Great Wall. I also want to study there in the future.” Wei An talked a lot about her recent trip to China.

Nowadays, many of her classmates are taking courses at the Confucius Institute. “We are very interested in Chinese traditional culture such as calligraphy and Tai Chi. We believe that learning Chinese is very helpful for our future and will make us more competitive when applying for a job in local Chinese enterprises in the future.”

Peng Yi (middle), Chinese Director of Confucius Institute of Johannesburg University, and two local students.

Peng Yi, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute of Johannesburg University, said that since enrollment began in 2015, the number of enrolled students has increased year by year, exceeding 1,000 currently. Apart from teaching Chinese and traditional Chinese culture, the Institute has also established close cooperation with local universities in the field of academic research and often holds Tai Chi training, technical training and other activities in the community.

“We are greatly encouraged by President Xi Jinping’s special mention of Confucius Institutes in his signed article published by various South African media. We are more confident about the future of Confucius Institutes,” Peng Yi said.

They Know Traditional Chinese Medicine Well

In Sunnyside district, Pretoria, a shop with a signboard in Chinese characters is especially eye-catching—北京同仁堂(Tongrentang Chinese Medicine), gold brushwork on a black board, boasting such a “Chinese style”. Before entering the door, one can smell the aroma of Chinese herbal medicine.

A local employee weighing herbs in Pretoria’s Tongrentang

During the interview of nearly an hour, an endless stream of customers went into the store to consult or buy medicines. Some patients had even traveled as far as 60 kilometers for acupuncture treatment. “There are not so many patients today. At both the beginning and end of each month, there are many more customers,” Manager Lv Xiaomei said, “Many customers know the Chinese names of medicine. They are familiar with traditional Chinese medicine and trust it.”

Nowadays, such shops are not uncommon in South Africa. According to Zhong Peng, Chief Representative of Tongrentang in Africa, since entering the market of South Africa in November 2016, Tongrentang has opened five stores in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban, all of which have clinics with doctors.

“Many African friends believe that everything comes from nature, which resonates with the traditional Chinese medicine theory of ‘man is an integral part of nature’,” Zhong Peng said. As early as 2001, the South African government passed the joint health bill, determining the legal status of traditional Chinese medicine.

While actively exploring the South African market, enterprises of traditional Chinese medicine have also offered free treatment for the community, cooperated with local colleges and universities in setting up training courses of acupuncture and moxibustion, and established a museum of traditional Chinese medicine to let the public understand the history of traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese culture it carries. Thanks to traditional Chinese medicine, South African people have a new option for improving their health, deepening mutual understanding.

Do Anything That Can Improve China-South Africa Relations

In June, a news piece attracted great attention in South Africa —the 2018 Africa-China Wildlife Conservation Conference was held in Johannesburg. With the support of overseas Chinese associations in South Africa and Chinese enterprises, the conference not only published the 2018 China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Conference Proposal, but also donated GPS tracking equipment to Africa’s most influential pangolin conservation organization.

In this regard, the Department of Environmental Affairs of South African, Humane Society International, African Pangolin Working Group and other parties highly praised the Conference.

“The preparation of the Conference had the support of nearly 200 Chinese communities in South Africa,” Said Nan Gengxu, President of Global Max Media Group, one of the organizers and sponsors of the Conference.

Why has Nan Gengxu, who has been a media worker in South Africa for many years, shifted to wildlife conservation? Nan gengxu frankly told the journalist that he had been brewing this idea in his heart for a long time. “In the past, people in some African countries believed that China was one of the major countries protecting wildlife. I hope that through concrete actions, African people can improve their impression of overseas Chinese and China on wildlife conservation which is of great concern to them.”

Local Chinese communities and Chinese enterprises are committed to continuing to help local wildlife conservation organizations to better carry out their work through donations. Nan Gengxu plans to make the Conference an annual meeting to remind the public continually. “It is of the utmost importance that the local wildlife protection activities are supported and carried out by overseas Chinese and Chinese enterprises.”

The attention and praise from the local society is the greatest praise. “We will be committed to doing anything that can improve the relations between China and South Africa and even between China and Africa, and anything that can make the local people have a better impression on China,” Nan said.

(Story and photos by Yan Yu, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Page 2, July 26th, 2018)

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