> Features > Special Coverage > Different approaches, same Fukuyama

Development of organizations deepens cultural exchanges

By Xue Jinwen | 2015-04-09
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Confucius Institutes worldwide host various activities, including (top to bottom) tea ceremonies, Peking opera mask painting and martial arts classes, to spread Chinese culture.

 

Confucius Institutes have been established in more than 130 countries and regions since 2004, serving as platforms for cultural communication while promoting friendship and harmony.


Enhancing China’s soft power
Confucius Institutes have emerged in the context of China deepening its reform and opening-up, conforming to the requirements of economic and cultural development and international exchanges. Since 2004, Confucius Institutes have been carrying out the mission of inheriting and promoting Chinese civilization and enhancing the nation’s soft power.

 

Firstly, the emergence of Confucius Institutes is in line with globalization. Real globalization is based on mutual respect and understanding as well as inclusive communication and integration, rather than just being led by Western countries. In this context, many countries have deepened mutual exchanges in economic, political, cultural, social and ecological fields. The whole world has gradually become a global “village,” where the fate of all people is closely tied together.
 

As a tool of communication enriched by culture, language is the primary medium for different civilizations and countries to exchange ideas. The promotion of language is a strategic option in realizing the coexistence of different cultures in a globalized world, which is conducive to the internationalization of Chinese language and the establishment and development of Confucius Institutes.
 

As a typical symbol of traditional Chinese culture, Confucius Institutes promote Chinese culture and fully showcase China’s determination to build its cultural “brand” and enhance its international status.
 

Secondly, the popularity of Chinese language has promoted the development of Confucius Institutes. Since its reform and opening-up, China has strengthened its economy, political influence and international status, all of which have attracted great attention from the world. Many countries have strengthened their relationships with China in international trade and cultural communication, resulting in a global boom of Chinese-language learning.
 

Currently, there are more than 50 million foreigners studying Chinese and nearly 40 countries and regions have released policies for incorporating Chinese-language teaching into their national education systems. The world’s passion for learning Chinese language and culture reflects its confidence in China’s future development. In this sense, the development of Confucius Institutes meets the requirement of foreigners learning Chinese and understanding Chinese culture.
 

Thirdly, Confucius Institutes are largely driven by the great prosperity of Chinese culture. Compared with Hollywood movies, Japanese manga and Korean TV dramas, the global influence of Chinese culture is relatively poor. In the face of the strong influence of Western culture and values, China should implement its cultural strategy of  “going global” to make its voice heard by the world. Confucius Institutes take the mission of Chinese-language teaching and cultural transmission, showcasing the special characteristics of Chinese culture to the world.


Exploring new cooperative mode
Compared to other institutions of language and culture promotion including Britain’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française and Germany’s Goethe-Institut, the first Confucius Institute was set up relatively late. However, in recent years Confucius Institutes have conducted active explorations in function, operating mode and cooperative mechanism to improve operation. Under the guidance of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, many Chinese and foreign universities have jointly established Confucius Institutes under the aim of long-term cooperation.

 

Confucius Institutes have undergone rapid development and played a significant role in promoting academic cooperation. Take Nankai University in Tianjin and the UK’s University of Glasgow, for example. The two sides have deepened mutual cooperation since jointly establishing a Confucius Institute in 2011. They expanded the content of exchanges from language and culture to other fields including economics, management, politics and sociology. They have also jointly conducted projects related to China studies. In addition, the graduate school jointly set up by these two universities is also ready to recruit students.
 

Confucius Institutes provide the opportunity for universities at home and abroad to conduct closer strategic cooperation and academic cooperation further promotes the development of institutes. Such interaction is conducive to enhancing the level of educational internationalization on the whole.


Despite their achievements, Confucius Institutes still face many challenges that require joint efforts to find efficient solutions. These include the recruitment of more qualified faculty and the improvement of teaching materials and methods.

 

Xue Jinwen is secretary of the Party committee at Nankai University.