[5th Anniversary of Belt and Road Initiative]
Confucius Institutes and Chinese Cultural Center Promote People-to-people Bond along “Belt and Road”

[Source]    China National Radio and TV Station CRI Online [Time]    2018-09-05 09:02:20 
 

The journalist recently conducted a 10-day interview in Serbia, Belarus and Kazakhstan along with the overseas interview group on the Belt and Road Initiative’s construction of a national mainstream media. In the course of interviewing local Confucius Institutes and Chinese Cultural Centers, it came to light that with China continuously conducting friendly cooperation with foreign countries and regions in various fields, especially after the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, the “Chinese craze” in countries along the bloc has continued to heat up, and the local people have further enhanced their interest in Chinese culture.

Belt and Road Initiative Helps Kazakhstan’s Confucius Institute, a Time-honored Brand, to Achieve New Development

In 2002, Lanzhou University of China and the Ali-Falabi Kazakh National University established a Chinese language center. This time-standing university in Almaty has a history of nearly 100 years and is the largest comprehensive university in Kazakhstan. In 2007, the center was renamed the Confucius Institute at Kazakh National University and was officially unveiled in 2009.

According to Wang Zheng, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute, there are five Confucius Institutes in Kazakhstan. In addition to the earliest established Confucius Institute at Kazakh National University, there are three others in Astana, Karaganda and Aktobe respectively co-established with Xi’an International Studies University, Xinjiang Shihezi University, and Xinjiang University of Finance and Economics respectively. In 2017, the Southwest University of China established the 5th Confucius Institute in Almaty. Today, there are about 2,000 students studying at the Confucius Institutes in Kazakhstan every year.

Wang Zheng has been the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at Kazakh National University since 2011. He proudly told the journalist that the Institute not only organizes professional Chinese language training in Kazakhstan, but also helps local students on HSK and oral tests and recommends excellent students to further their study in China. Many young Kazakhs who have returned from overseas studies have become the backbone of the exchanges and cooperation between China and Kazakhstan in politics, economy, culture, education and other fields.


HSK test site (Photo by the Confucius Institute at Kazakh National University)

When talking about the experience of teaching, Wang Zheng believes that it is not possible to rely solely on China’s own strength and simply focus on expanding the range of enrollment, but to put emphasis on playing the leading role and following the guidance of seminars, teaching demonstrations and cultural activities. Specifically, it is to let the outstanding teachers dispatched by China to play a better role in teaching methods, and at the same time use the complete materials to guide the local Chinese teaching and Chinese culture promotion activities. According to reports, there are many commercial institutions at the center of Chinese teaching in Almaty, and nearly 10 universities provide Chinese language teaching major. “We provide them with a variety of guidance, which is a way of achieving more with less effort.” Wang Zheng also pointed out that in the past, the Confucius Institute carried out cultural promotion activities with focus on its role of influence of Chinese culture in the local area. “In recent years, especially under the guidance of the Belt and Road Initiative, I believe that cultural exchanges should be ‘two-ways’, which means to convey cultural symbols and information about customs and festivals of the two countries to promote and deepen Chinese teaching in our country,” Wang added.


Spring Festival Eve of Almaty University (Photo by the Confucius Institute at the Kazakh National University)

At the end of 2014, the Ali-Falabi Kazakh National University awarded honorary medals to seven outstanding contributors. Wang Zheng, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute, was the only foreigner to have ever received the honorary medal and certificate issued by the school.


Wang Zheng receiving the award from the Ali-Falabi Kazakh National University in 2014 (Photo by the Confucius Institute at the Kazakh National University)

Wang Zheng was awarded the Top Ten Individuals with the Most Beautiful Moment in the event of “Finding the Most Outstanding Teachers” hosted by CCTV and the Ministry of Education in 2017.

In September 2013, as the Belt and Road Initiative was first put forward, Wang Zheng met with President Xi Jinping as a representative of teachers working in foreign countries. He recalled, “I clearly remember that President Xi Jinping came to Almaty from Astana and met us at the Intercontinental Hotel. It is indeed an incredible honor beyond expression.” Wang Zheng said that as an ordinary college teacher, being able to go overseas to showcase Chinese culture and tell the story of China is a glory in itself. “We have a deep sense of responsibility and mission, thus giving rise to a strong sense of honor,” he told the journalist, “The message contained in President Xi Jinping’s speech made us deeply feel that there is a strong motherland behind to support us and there will be better opportunities for local students in Central Asia.”

Speaking of the significance and influence of the Belt and Road Initiative on the Confucius Institute, Wang Zheng believed that the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative has enabled the Confucius Institute to embrace a clearer direction. “People-to-people bond is one of the core contents of the Belt and Road Initiative. We feel that there has been a more positive popularity in organizing various activities in Kazakhstan. The consulates and Chinese-funded enterprises have given us various forms of assistance and cooperation. Our efforts to ‘going global’ are to showcase Chinese culture to the local people and gain recognition from them. Now, the Belt and Road Initiative has prompted people in the countries along it to have the willingness to actively learn more about our culture, to integrate with and gain strengths from each other when there are either agreements or disagreements.”

Only Republican Confucius Institute in the World

The Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University was established in June 2006.

The Belarusian State University is the best university in Belarus. According to reports, there were 53,000 teachers and students at the University in the 2017-2018 school year, including 30,000 college students and master students, 2374 foreign students and 826 Chinese students.

Professor Anatoly Afanasievich Tozik, current Director of the Confucius Institute, is an old friend of China. He was Belarusian Ambassador to China from 2006 to 2011. After being relieved from office, he served as Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus and concurrently as Belarusian Chairman of the Belarus-China Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee. Since 2016, he has been Director of the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University.


Director Tozik greeting the press delegation in front of the Confucius Institute (Photo by Zhao Xueyu)

Director Tozik told the journalist that the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University is responsible for coordinating the work of all Confucius Institutes in Belarus. There are Confucius Classrooms as well as Chinese and Chinese Cultural Center under the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University. Among them, the Belarusian National Economic University, the Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno, Gymnasia with the Belarusian Language of Studying No. 23 of Minsk and the Francisk Skorina Gomel State University have always been opening Confucius Classrooms. Gomel State University has been transformed into an independent Confucius Institute since 2017. Schools having Chinese and Chinese cultural Center include the Baranovichi State University, the 12th Middle School of Minsk, the 11th Middle School of Minsk, the Smolevich District High School, the 16th Middle School of Orsha and Volno Noveskaya Middle School.

According to Zhang Lifeng, Teaching Director of the Confucius Institute, there are 7 Belarusian teachers and 12 Chinese teachers at the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University. Chinese teaching classes are divided into adult class and children class, in which students are further divided into four levels: elementary, basic, intermediate and advanced. When the journalist visited the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University, it was summer holiday of the university. However, there were still adult class students having class at the time.


A Belarusian teacher giving a lecture at the audio classroom (Photo by Zhao Xueyu)

The textbook Chinese Characters Teaching Methodology used in lectures was written by Associate Professor Motková Yuliya Victor Rovna of the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University. This textbook is very suitable for local students to learn Chinese characters.

According to the statistics from the Confucius Institute, the number of students attending Chinese language training classes increased from 87 in 2011 to 522 in 2017, a six-fold increase in seven years. The Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University set up an HSK test site in 2012. In 2017, the number of examinees was 341. In 2018, with the support of the Belarusian Ministry of Education, the Republican Confucius Institute held its First Chinese-Language Olympic Competition for College Students, with 130 college students from 10 higher education institutions across the country participating. The winners of the competition were awarded the certificate issued by the Belarusian Ministry of Education and the Ambassador Scholarship bestowed by the Chinese Embassy in Belarus.

Since the establishment of the Confucius Institute, a large number of cultural promotion activities such as China Film Festival, Chinese culture demonstration classes, and traditional festival performances have been held.


Cultural demonstration class (Photo by the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University)

Since 2009, Dalian University of Technology has become a partner of the Belarusian State University and carried out various cooperations with the Republican Confucius Institute. Every year, there is a two-week language summer camp held for students of the Confucius Institute, Confucius Classroom, Chinese and Chinese Cultural Center and Belarusian State University. Students are given opportunities to learn Chinese in China, come close to Chinese culture, practice calligraphy and Tai Chi, learn to cook Chinese cuisine, know about the students’ life in Dalian University of Technology, and participate in various cultural exchange activities.


2018 Summer Camp of Dalian University of Technology (Photo by the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University)

The Confucius Institute pays due attention to the research work in the field of sinology and scientific exchanges and cooperation. In 2017, the research themed “scientific basis and determination of the most promising cooperation direction in china-Belarusian cooperation in economic and trade, science and technology as well as humanities” was completed. In 2017 and 2018, many seminars were held, such as the International Scientific Seminar on “socialist thoughts and basic strategies with Chinese characteristics for a new era”, the International Scientific Practice Seminar on China-Belarus Cooperation in the Field of Higher Education under the Framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Seminar on Chinese Teachers’ Scientific Practice in the Republican.

In 2016, Hanban decided to turn the Republican Confucius Institute into a demonstrative Confucius Institute.

At the Global Confucius Institute Conference held in Xi’an, China in 2017, Director Tozik delivered a speech on the global importance and development prospects of Confucius Institutes.


Director Tozik delivering a speech at the Global Confucius Institute Conference in Xi’an (Photo by the Republican Confucius Institute of Sinology at Belarus State University)

China Cultural Center in Minsk Emerges as an Important Platform for China-Belarus Cultural Exchanges

On December 21, 2016, the China Cultural Center in Minsk was officially unveiled. In the past year and a half, over 150 cultural activities have been held at the local center, including “Happy Spring Festival”, China Cultural Week, China Intangible Cultural Heritage Week, and “A Moment We Share” Mid-autumn Festival Celebrations. In addition, extra-curricular classes, symposiums, lectures and exhibitions themed with Chinese culture were all held there.

According to Zhu Pengfei, a staff at China Cultural Center in Minsk, with the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China, the Center has established cooperation projects with some Chinese provinces and municipalities. It cooperated with Chengdu and Shenzhen respectively in 2017 and 2018, where the local art troupe and representatives from the cultural and art circles were sent to Belarus for conducting cultural exchanges such as performance, exhibitions and seminars. In the meantime, representatives from the cultural and art circles in Belarus were accordingly sent by the cultural center to the relevant provinces and cities for exchanges.


The China Cultural Center in Minsk (Photo by Zhao Xueyu)

When entering the cultural center, you will be enchanted by its Chinese features, as the Russian version of A Bite of China is live on the screen. Zhu Pengfei told the journalist that the extra-curricular activities are generally held on weekends, including watching Chinese movies, playing Chinese chess and learning Chinese calligraphy and paintings, which are widely popular with the public. Thanks to its diversity, the local people who attend those activities include both 5- and 6-year-olds and the retired in their 70s.

The center has attracted numerous local people interested in Chinese culture ever since its establishment. Victor Sayevich, Vice President of Chinese Chess Club in Minsk, told the journalist that the club was founded 2 years ago and at the very beginning it was set up at the Chinese restaurant owned by his friend. After the founding of the center one year ago, he has started to hold activities every weekend. “We enjoy a nice atmosphere here so that more people are attracted to join us. One year ago, we founded the Chinese chess club in Belarus and we aim to make Minsk the biggest center for fans of Chinese chess across Europe”


Gila, her mom and Vice President of Chinese Chess Club in Minsk Victor Sayevich (Photo by Zhao Xueyu)

An 8-year-old girl Gila from Minsk was learning Chinese chess together with her mom. She told the journalist that Chinese chess brings her a lot of fun and she has learnt it for over a year. As her mom and dad had once traveled to China with photos of the Great Wall back home, she is quite eager to see the Great Wall herself.


Members of “Cang Jie” Chinese Culture Club in Belarus (Photo by “Cang Jie” Chinese Culture Club in Belarus)

It is the members of the “Cang Jie” Chinese Culture Club who are engaging in the activity of Chinese calligraphy and paintings. The founder Sergey Prokhorov said to the journalist that the club was spontaneously founded in 2016 at Pushkin Library in Minsk. “A number of local Belarusians are willing to conduct exchanges with Chinese people and know more about Chinese culture. Meanwhile, many Chinese people who study and work in Belarus hope to enhance their Russian proficiency and befriend the local people.”

Various activities of cultural exchanges held at China Cultural Center in Minsk gained great popularity among the local people. Zhu Pengfei, the staff of the center, said that it is estimated that roughly 8,000 people participated in the activities at the cultural center, and since the year 2018, the number of participants has amounted to 15,000.”

The Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia——First-ever Confucius Institute Featuring Spreading Chinese Tea Culture across Globe

Founded in May 2014, the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad was the second Confucius Institute that Hanban established after the first Confucius Institute at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. The University of Novi Sad is the second national university in Serbia. As the Chinese cooperative university of the Confucius Institute, Zhejiang A&F University is the first university offering undergraduate program of tea culture across China, aimed at promoting Chinese tea culture worldwide.

Feng Jin, a teacher from Zhejiang A&F University who taught at the Confucius Institute, said that there are currently 9 teachers and 5 volunteers with different skills. Besides Chinese language course, a variety of Chinese culture skills courses are also offered, including tea culture, calligraphy, Tai Chi, traditional Chinese painting, gardening and paper cutting.

Danko, a third-year middle school student, is keen on tea ceremony and Tai Chi. He told the journalist that he has learnt Chinese for 3 years. In order to enhance his Chinese proficiency, he not only attends classes and activities at the Confucius Institute, but also endeavors to study on his own, for example, learning new words and expressions online, watching Chinese TV series and movies and listening to Chinese music. He is a great fan of Jay Chou, and loves watching TV series such as Wu Zetian, and iPartment. He dreams of going to a film academy in China like his sister, who has studied at the Department of Directing of Beijing Film Academy for a year. Not long ago, Danko took and passed the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK), and won the first prize of the advanced group at the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students in Serbia. As a result, he will come to China to participate in the final competition for Foreign Secondary School Students this October. Moreover, he was awarded the Confucius Institute Scholarship and got the chance to study Chinese for half a year at Zhejiang A&F University.

Up until now, the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad has established 16 Chinese teaching sites in Belgrade and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, covering kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions. As of now, the number of registered students has reached 3,389, ranging from 5 to 78 years old who come from all walks of life. Since the HSK examination center was established, the number of YCT, HSK, and HSKK test-takers has reached 639. Of particular note, through the efforts of the Confucius Institute, Chinese has been included in the credit course at the University of Novi Sad and at the Gymnasium of Karlovci with a history of nearly 200 years.

State-to-state relations thrive when there is friendship between the peoples, and such friendship grows out of close bond between the peoples. People-to-people bond not only becomes an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but lay a social foundation for the sound and successful implementation of BRI. We have the reason to believe that more and more people from all walks of life who are interested in learning Chinese and Chinese culture will fulfill their good aspirations for knowing more about China through the platforms such as Confucius Institutes and China Cultural Center.

(Story by Zhao Xueyu, CRI Online)

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