A Chinese singer performs with Rwandan students during an event celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year at the University of Rwanda in Kigali on January 28 (XINHUA)
Since retiring from the vice presidency of the China International Publishing Group two years ago, Huang Youyi, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body, has had more time to travel around the world and present China to the international community. Huang's calendar is crammed with seminars and forums where he helps foreign participants learn more about his country.
Of these events, what impressed him most were two international forums held in South Africa and Italy in September and October, respectively, last year, reflecting the different interests audiences in developed and developing countries have in China.
"At a think tank forum in Milan, Italy, the participants focused on China's economic restructuring and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In South Africa, I was asked more specific questions, such as China's efforts to address corruption, reduce poverty and boost economic development," Huang told ChinAfrica, a monthly magazine published by Beijing Review. "I could see that Africans pay more attention to China's development and livelihood improvement, hoping to get inspiration from our experience."
Huang suggested that cultural exchanges and people-to-people contact between China and Africa should be broadened, in keeping with the rapid development of Sino-African relations. "On China's part, we need to improve our capacity to communicate with the international community. This is an urgent task," he said.
Huang Youyi,a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body
While tabling the Government Work Report at the opening of this year's full session of the 12th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on March 5, Premier Li Keqiang stressed the importance of international cultural exchanges and international communication capacity. "Though there is only one sentence [on this] in the report, we can never emphasize it too much," Huang said. "The international community needs to learn more about China. More importantly, we should present China much more clearly to the outside world."
In recent years, the Chinese Government has taken various measures to improve Sino-African cultural exchanges and people-to-people contact. According to an inter-governmental agreement on cultural promotion, the Year of South Africa event was held in China in 2014 and the Year of China event was held in South Africa the following year. In January, China and Egypt launched the China-Egypt Cultural Year. Experts say that cultural exchanges have greatly promoted mutual understanding between different communities.
"China and African countries are increasingly strengthening their economic ties, but such ties cannot be sustained without the foundation of cultural exchanges," Huang said. According to him, only through appreciating each other culturally can the Chinese and Africans enhance mutual understanding and friendship.
"Many Chinese like the distinctive African culture; China also has a rich culture. We must introduce our colorful culture to Africans," Huang said, adding that cultural exchanges should be conducted on an equal footing.
For Huang, a prestigious translator in China, the development of the language service industry is an important part of improving China's international communication capacity. In 2013, China proposed an international development strategy and framework, the Belt and Road Initiative, encouraging enterprises to invest in countries and regions along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, an extension of the ancient trade routes involving about 60 countries and regions in Asia, Africa and Europe.
"You cannot expect that all the people in these countries speak Chinese or all Chinese enterprise staff speak foreign languages when they go to these countries. So they need language service," Huang said, explaining that language service does not simply mean human translation. "In the big-data era, we also need machine translations and help from various software."
Huang said that not all Chinese enterprises venturing abroad are adequately aware of the importance of language service. "Many enterprises go abroad trying to expand their business but find they know nothing about the local culture, laws and customs. They do not know that language service can help them," he noted.
Statistics show that there are more than 3,000 Chinese enterprises investing in Africa with their investment exceeding $30 billion. China is currently Africa's largest trading partner.
With Sino-African economic ties deepening, Huang is increasingly involved in African affairs. He frequently attends international seminars in Africa and often lectures at training sessions for African officials held in China. All of this has sensitized him to the problems facing both China and African countries' current economic growth.
"Against the background of economic globalization, any change in the development of one region will exert influence on others," Huang said. "But the slowed Chinese economic growth will not necessarily lead to a slowdown in Africa, as their economies complement one another."
Industrial cooperation is a good example of this mutual complementation. At the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in South Africa in December 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed that the prevailing "new type of China-Africa strategic partnership" be upgraded to a "comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership." Xi also announced that China would implement 10 cooperation plans with Africa in the next three years. Heading that list is the China-Africa industrialization plan.
"China-Africa industrial cooperation does not mean moving China's redundant, polluting production capacity to Africa. Definitely not," Huang said. "We must consider the demands of the African people."
He gave an example to illustrate this. African countries are undergoing construction on a large scale and they need cement. If they can produce cement locally, instead of importing from other countries, they can create jobs and improve local people's livelihoods. In contrast, China is reducing its cement production as the domestic market has become saturated. "So the [Chinese] production capacity can be moved to African countries in need," Huang said.
On January 7, the People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, announced that the China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Fund, designed to facilitate collaboration between China and African countries, had been activated.
The fund, with an initial capital of $10 billion, will invest mainly in sectors such as manufacturing, high and new technology, agriculture, energy, infrastructure construction and finance in African countries.
"China is transforming its economic development mode and African countries can take advantage of the process to accelerate their industrialization process," Huang said.
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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