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Confucius Institutes:A Decade of Culture
Cover Stories Series 2014> Confucius Institutes:A Decade of Culture
UPDATED: November 5, 2014 NO. 46 NOVEMBER 13, 2014
Culture and Communication
After a decade of development, Confucius Institutes have become an essential platform for promoting understanding between China and other countries
By Yin Pumin

Comprehensively inclusive

In Cyprus, the University of Cyprus and the Beijing Institute of Education officially initiated cooperation on October 27, marking the event with an inauguration ceremony for the Confucius Institute at the university.

President of the University Nicos Anastasiades, said this valuable interaction would lead to innovative and progressive collaboration in the academic, research, and educational fields.

In Hungary, the Central and Eastern Europe Chinese Language Teachers Training Center began its first training course at the Confucius Institute of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest in June. Dozens of local Chinese language teachers from eleven Central and Eastern European countries came to attend training.

In Africa, China operates 42 Confucius Institutes at many of Africa's top universities, stretching from Cape Town to Cairo.

China also runs one of the world's largest short-term training programs. The African Talents Program, launched in 2012, aims to train 30,000 African professionals in China between 2013 and 2015, and 18,000 African trainees will benefit from full scholarships to study at Chinese universities under the scheme.

In Ghana, its first and only Confucius Institute was established at the University of Ghana in May 2013. It was established to help Ghanaians learn the Chinese language, enjoy Chinese culture and help to develop and further fortify China-Ghana relations, said Mei Meilian, Director of the Ghanaian Confucius Institute.

Ignatius Suglo is a graduate of the University of Ghana. Having won the Special Prize for the overall best position in the Chinese Bridge Competition as a student, he went on to represent his country in the worldwide Chinese Bridge Competition this year.

The Chinese Bridge Competition is a large-scale international contest sponsored by Hanban that aims to prompt the enthusiasm of students worldwide in learning Chinese and to strengthen the global understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Suglo went into the world competition in Beijing and finally won the second place among all the African students. He was among the first batch of students at the University of Ghana to begin learning Chinese.

"Looking back after many years, I think it has paid off," Suglo said. He believes learning Chinese has broadened his horizons especially on world affairs. Having studied with Chinese students, he has also learnt a lot of their culture.

In Asia, China has also established many Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms. Hanban's figures show that there are 102 Confucius Institutes and 58 Confucius Classrooms today.

Thailand hosts 12 Confucius Institutes and 11 Confucius Classrooms, the most in Asia. The Confucius Institute at Khon Kaen University was launched in 2006, making it the oldest in the country.

"The school has become a benchmark Confucius Institute for Thailand and the rest of Asia," said Wang Guibin, Director of the Confucius Institute at the university.

According to Wang, his institute has the most students learning Chinese in Thailand. "This semester alone, more than 6,900 students registered at different teaching centers of our Confucius Institute," he told Beijing Review.

Besides teaching Chinese, the institute is also committed to promoting Chinese culture among different groups of people in Thailand.

Today, with a new classroom building ready to open in December, the Confucius Institute at Khon Kaen University is set to become the largest in the world. "With the best facilities, I have confidence we will take our institute to a higher level in promoting cultural communications between the peoples of China and Thailand," Wang said.

Like those in other areas, the Confucius Institutes in Central Asia and Transcaucasia have also seen rapid development. According to Hanban, the number of registered students in the region stood at 24,000 in 2013, up 33.3 percent year on year.

Alina Molokova has been learning at the Confucius Institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for three years. She now speaks fluent Chinese and is has also taken up calligraphy. Like Molokova, other students regularly gather to practice what they say is the most difficult form of writing, but an intriguing one at that.

"Calligraphy is so interesting. I really love Chinese, and I hope to attend university in China," Molokova said.

"Students are interested in writing with a brush, not because they want to be calligraphers themselves. We want them to have some interest in Chinese culture in general," Tashkent Confucius Institute teacher Tuo Jianming said.

With one side hoping to spread its cultural influence in the region and the other eager to learn about it, Confucius Institutes are welcomed in cities across the region.

Many students say that as a former part of the Soviet Union, they often put great emphasis in learning about Russia and other ex-Soviet Bloc countries, while knowing little about the economic powerhouse that lies just next door.

"When two peoples try to develop trade ties, mutual understanding between their cultures is crucial. Confucius Institutes help people learn the language for practical purposes," said Taissya Marmontova, an assistant professor with the Regional Studies Department of Eurasian National University in Kazakhstan.

Atuoda, a staff member of the China Southern Airlines office in Bishkek, now works for the ticketing department. His Chinese impresses every customer. He has also learned Chinese at the Confucius Institute at Bishkek Humanities University. His Chinese proficiency helped him get the job.

Email us at: yinpumin@bjreview.com

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