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Towards a New Decade of Confucius Institutes

Time:2014-12-08 11:41Source:Editor:View: 4930

Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 9th Confucius

Institute Conference


Liu Yandong

Vice Premier of P. R. China

Chair of Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters


7 December, 2014


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Good morning!

“Let the cloud sea wash the sky, to make Fujian’s landscape new and high”. These lines were written by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he was working in Fujian Province. Today, it gives me special pleasure to meet you all, my old and new friends, in the city of Xiamen, which has beautiful scenery and nice weather, to draw new blueprints together for future development at the 9th Confucius Institute Conference. First of all, allow me to extend to you all a warmest welcome on behalf of the Chinese Government and the Confucius Institute Headquarters!

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Confucius Institute and we witnessed colorful celebration events going on from the beginning to the end of the year in different parts of the world. On 27 September we celebrated the first ever Confucius Institute Day worldwide concurrently, to which President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent their congratulatory letters respectively. President Xi wrote that “Confucius Institutes belong to China, they also belong to the world” and that “you have devoted tremendous passion and efforts to enhancing the dissemination of culture and knowledge as well as heart-to-heart communication between human beings”. Premier Li wrote “I wish that Confucius Institutes will move forward in accordance with the principle of ‘mutual respect, friendly discussion, equality and mutual benefit’”, and “constantly improve the quality of teaching”. From the first morning ray in New Zealand to the late sunset in Hawaii, celebrations went on for 36 consecutive hours, spanning across 22 time zones and being participated by over 10 million people. From this we feel deep down about the warmth and strength of the large family of Confucius Institutes. The theme of this year’s conference “Embracing a New Decade of Confucius Institute” is an epitome of the happy memory of the past 10 years as well as confidence in and aspiration for the coming decade. I cannot agree more with and feel greatly inspired by Governor Su Shulin of Fujian Province and all other previous speakers.     

A decade of hard work leads to a decade of harvest. Ten years ago at the threshold of the 21st century when countries in a global village felt the urgent need to communicate and cooperate in face of common challenges, language and culture stand out more remarkably than ever as the bridge. At the same time, China was receiving increasing attention from the world with its rapid development, with a continually heated-up “Chinese-learning fervor” and “China fervor”. It was against this backdrop that the first Confucius Institute was established. In 2004, we signed the first Agreement on the Establishment of Confucius Institute with Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies, Uzbekistan; hung out the first Confucius Institute Nameplate at the Institute for Korean-Chinese Cultural Relationship in Seoul; and put the first Confucius Institute into formal operation at the University of Maryland, United States. Since then the curtain has been drawn for Confucius Institutes to flourish abroad, opening a new chapter in exchange of Chinese civilization and other diversified civilizations, playing a key role in the building of harmonious world with durable peace and common prosperity. 

--The past decade witnessed the advent and flourishing of Confucius Institutes as a bridge of inter-language and intercultural communication. Up to now, 475 Confucius Institutes and 851 Confucius Classrooms have been established in 126 countries, with over 3,450,000 accumulated registered students. Chinese language teaching has been incorporated into the national education system in 61 countries and the EU. Around the globe, there are 100 million learners of Chinese, 3.3 times as many as 10 years ago. 

--The past decade witnessed the evolution of Confucius Institutes into a featured education resource system based on unswerving pursuit of quality and consolidated foundation. Over 100,000 full-time and part-time teachers, volunteers and administrative staff from China and other countries have worked in Confucius Institutes. China has trained altogether 200,000 local teachers for over 100 countries, enrolled 25,000 students for degree and non-degree studies in China, published 1300 Chinese textbooks in 54 languages. In addition, there are a large number of diversified localized textbooks compiled by Confucius Institutes around the globe. A well-recognized international Chinese language proficiency test system has put into place together with a fully-fledged language teaching system spanning from pre-school to university education and from short-term trainings to degree education.   

--The past decade witnessed the creation of a collaborative school-running model based on equality, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win by Confucius Institutes rooted in and serving the public. We lift Confucius Institutes above differences in social system, ideology and cultural background by using unified name and constitution while respecting initiative spirit and diversified operation of each Confucius Institute. We have been holding fast to the practice of offering sincere services to local residents in response to local needs of the host universities and communities by enriching teaching content and activities. We have been holding fast to the principles of openness, transparency, standardized operation, established the Council meeting, annual regional joint conference and global conference system, and effectively implemented the annual reporting and appraisal system as new approaches to sino-foreign cooperation and complementarity.

--The past decade witnessed the Confucius Institutes being evolved into a famous brand for deepening people-to-people exchange via the media of language and culture. Altogether we have reached out to some 50 million people with over 100,000 cultural exchange activities organized, invited 140,000 teachers and students and principals from 120 countries on visits to China, attracted over 500,000 students of various levels from 100 countries to join in “Chinese Bridge” Competition. We also take the initiative to spread Traditional Chinese Medicine, martial arts, culinary, vocational skill trainings and other featured activities to deepen friendly bonds with people in other countries. 

Upon becoming Chair of the Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters in 2008, I have visited over 20 Confucius Institutes on five continents with unforgettable memories of each. I had a glimpse of the innovative “six arts” teaching in the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, watched a wonderful Chinese dance performance in the Catholic University of Chile, marveled at a proficient Chinese poetry recital at Confucius Institute at Auckland of New Zealand, inspected vocational skill training at Confucius Institute at Addis Ababa of Ethiopia, received a letter written in Chinese by a kid from Oregon of the United States, had in-depth discussion with sinologists at a symposium in Mid-East Europe. The experiences brought home to me the great enthusiasm of people in different countries in learning the Chinese language and learning about China, and the great vitality exhibited by the large family of Confucius Institutes.

“As if the vernal breeze had come back overnight, adorning thousands of pear trees with white blossoms”. Over the past decade Confucius Institutes spread far beyond expectation in terms of speed, effect and influence. This pleasant surprise can be attributed to many a factor, but mainly to the following in my opinion: First, being an active response to the global trend of intercultural communication, meeting the need of non-native people for learning Chinese and serving as a bridge for the exchange and merging of different cultures and the heart-to-heart communication between different nations; Second, being self-positioned to functioning as service provider to the public, following the innate laws of teaching Chinese as a second language and making the language and culture easily accessible to the target group using teaching method responsive to different personal and geographical conditions; Third, being adherent to the founding principles of reform, innovation,  and constant renewal, exploring into featured and vastly diversified pedagogical and managerial mechanisms in light of local cultural traditions and actual conditions, so that Confucius Institutes of every kind may flourish; Fourth, being committed to building a cooperation mechanism featuring joint construction, ownership, joint management and mutual benefit, collaborating with educational institutions, governments, enterprises, societies and associations rather than copying the expansion mode of other language extension agencies around the globe, which win extensive popularity among peoples of other countries with strong synergy created.

The burgeoning of Confucius Institutes is a result of the wisdom and hard work of people from all walks of life both home and abroad. At this moment, I can’t help thinking of a true story. Professor Andrzej Kapiszewsky of Jagiellonian University in Poland, who had served in such important posts as governor and ambassador, was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer in 2006 and had only three months to live. He chose to do something meaningful during the last days of his life, that is, to establish the first Confucius Institute in Poland. In the letter to the Headquarters, he wrote that Polish and Chinese cultures have a lot in common and expressed his wish to strengthen cultural exchanges between the peoples of Poland and China. Everyone who read the letter was deeply touched. Under the joint efforts of the two sides, Krakow Confucius Institute was successfully opened and Professor Kapiszewsky accomplished his last wish before he passed away. People with the same ideals think nothing of a long and arduous journey. There are many stories like this. It is the far sight and devotion of people with lofty ideas like Professor Kapiszewsky that motivate us to work hard undaunted by difficulties, pushing ahead the undertakings of Confucius Institutes in a down-to-earth manner.   

On behalf of the Chinese government and the Confucius Institute Headquarters, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to board members of partner universities and schools for your far sight and friendship which helped blaze the way for Confucius Institutes; to about 800 present and former university presidents whom we recognize as cornerstone and pillar of our undertaking for your courage and wisdom in bringing the Confucius Institutes into being and into prosperity; to over 1,600 directors in or off the post whom we deem as backbone and pioneers for your outstanding contribution in assuming the responsibility against difficulty and hardship to China’s intercultural communication and integration endeavors; to 100,000 full-time and part-time teachers, volunteers and administrative staff whom we regard as folk ambassadors and unknown heroes for your relentless efforts and touching devotions behind the scene that helped tighten our bonds with other peoples around the globe; to all the students who enthusiastically took part in the courses and activities at the Confucius Institutes, your sincere expectation and passion is the constant driver to the growth of Confucius Institutes; to Chinese partner institutions, local education administrations and Chinese diplomatic missions abroad for your strong backing in providing enabling environment and kind assistance; to all the Chinese and foreign Council members, for your intensive care and selfless dedication which pose as important guarantees for the great success of Confucius Institutes; and finally to governments and peoples of the world and foreign missions in China for your great support!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Great times call for great vision, which in turn requires great wisdom. With the deepening of multi-polarization and economic globalization, and continuous progressing of cultural diversification and social informationization, particularly in face of such global challenges as international financial crises, climate change, food and energy security, epidemics and terrorism, countries are increasingly bonded to each other with blended interests, mingled rise and decline, shared danger and safety as an interest and fate community. And the ideas of peace, progress and win-win cooperation became all the more deeply branded upon people’s minds.  

At present, China has entered into a new development phase featured by all-rounded deepening reform and opening-up.  The Chinese people are going all out for achieving the Two Centennial Goals and realizing the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. We will take the initiative to adjust to the new normal in China's economic development featured by medium-to-high speed growth, constantly improved and upgraded economic structure, new impetus but nothing short of risks, vigorously pushing forward new industrialization, informationization, urbanization and agricultural modernization, facilitating economic transition and upgrading, striving to ensure the improvement of people's wellbeing, comprehensively advancing the rule of law and expanding the path of development that leads to increased production, prosperity and a good ecosystem.

China cannot develop independently without the rest of the world and in return it also brings development opportunities to other countries. We will unwaveringly follow a win-win strategy of opening up, keep to the correct views on righteousness and profits, expand cooperation with other countries on equal basis in an all-rounded manner, and share with them the bonus of development. We intend to act prudently as a learning, accountable and responsible world power. One month earlier, President Xi Jinping made it clear at the APEC Meeting in Beijing that China is willing to chart the course for future development, meet global challenges, build cooperation platforms and pursue interconnected development together with other countries around the world. We proposed to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, i.e., the Strategic Vision of “One Belt One Road Strategy”, pushed for the launch of the Asia-pacific Free Trade Area, called for the establishment of New Development Bank of BRICS and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, took out US$40 billion to set up the Silk Road Fund, which are gestures of win-win cooperation with other countries. In the next five years, China is projected to import over US$10 trillion of goods and make over US$500 billion of overseas investment, and over 500 million Chinese tourists will make overseas visits. We sincerely welcome more countries to join China on the fast track of healthy development. The Chinese Dream will benefit not only the Chinese people but also the people of the whole world, making active contribution to the realization of the dreams of other countries and of the world at large.

Against this context, it is an irresistible trend of our times to deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges and to enhance mutual learning among civilizations. The Chinese government has been attaching great importance to strengthening people-to-people and cultural exchanges with world countries, extending colorful exchange activities in the field of education, science and technology, culture, health, sports, women, youth, media, think-tank etc. The booming exchanges have become important channels for the interaction, mutual learning and integration of civilizations around the globe, forming one of the three pillars of China’s relations with other countries together with political mutual trust and economic and trade cooperation. In recent years, we have established the high-level people-to-people dialogue mechanism with Russia, US, UK, EU and France, with an inclusive exchange structure built involving multi-stakeholders including the government and the general public. Confucius Institutes, as cross-cultural bridge and bond of friendship, are faced with unprecedented development opportunities.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

 “Ten years makes a mere start in life”. The past decade has put Confucius Institutes on a sound footing. Faced to the future, we have a long journey to make, through constant trials and the troubles of growing-up. It is therefore pressing for us to beat on the pulse of the times, blaze new trails, brace the waves and work as team so as to open up wider development space for Confucius Institutes. At this point, I have four expectations:  

That Confucius Institutes speed up localization for integration development. Only by sowing the seed of inclusiveness to get better adapted to the local social and cultural environment is it possible for Confucius Institutes to flourish and maintain strong vitality. It is essential to act in line with the target positioning of the host institutions and to become an integral part of the development strategy with intensified talent cultivation, sinologist research and internationalization. It is essential to meet the actual needs of the community residents by walking out of the ivory tower to merge into the community and respond to diversified needs of different age and background groups for language learning, cultural understanding and vocational training. It is essential to integrate into the local cultural background by following local thinking and living patterns and customs for enhanced interculturality so that Confucius Institutes may serve as the window for people of different cultures and nations to understand and access each other.     

That Confucius Institutes work incessantly on quality improvement and fundamental development. Quality is the lifeline of Confucius Institutes. It is expected that continued efforts be made to intensify development of “three institutes”: Confucius Institute Online to facilitate quality teaching resource sharing around the globe, Model Institutes to have radiation effect in the region and around the globe, Confucius Institute Director Academy to foster good leaders for Confucius Institutes around the world. It is expected that reform be advanced in the three priority areas, namely, teacher, teaching material and teaching methods. For further development of Confucius Institutes, the key lies with the directors but the fundamentals are with the teachers. All teacher-related links, i.e., recruitment, training, dispatching and management, need to be strengthened for better integration. It is of particular importance to prioritize cultivation of core teachers, compilation of local textbooks, trainings on non-English-speaking teachers. It is expected that the Confucius China Studies Program be carried out more effectively to generate a contingent of young sinologists and core teachers. It is expected that internet information technology be utilized more efficiently to enrich teaching content, enhance teaching effects, and improve teaching quality and standard.   

That Confucius Institutes expand on people-to-people exchange functions to facilitate diversification. Confucius Institutes are not only important language teaching platforms but also key carriers of the people-to-people exchange as well as mutual learning between different civilizations. We need to give full play to the unique advantage of their function as the latter so as to move from language teaching to cultural exchange, scientific and technological cooperation, information consultancy, and from simple communication to sophisticated sinologist and area studies and translation of classics. We need to focus more on brand-building by reviewing our experiences in running “Chinese Bridge”, “Confucius Institute Day” and other programs so that more boutique program may be developed to further expand social influence. We need to resort further to diversification by tapping deeper into the China elements and cultural resources of other countries so as to develop activities of wider popularity to local people to help them better understand China and the Chinese culture while bringing back to China different cultures around the world, thus facilitate the two-way exchange and learning between the Chinese and world cultures of excellence.  

That Confucius Institutes innovate their operational mode for sustainable development. The wise do not follow the beaten track. Ours is an initiative undertaking, and we are blazing new trails unbeaten by others. And so we need to constantly come up with new ideas and new ways, build on working mechanisms and systems, fully mobilize the institutions, governments and other stakeholders so as to build consensus and consolidate foundation as far as possible. The Chinese government and people will support Confucius Institutes’ endeavors as always and we are expecting continued support from other countries in encouraging wider participation, promoting the establishment of Confucius Institute alumni associations or Confucius Institute foundations, testing for favorable multi-channel fund-raising mechanisms as strong impetus for sustainable development of the great cause.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Fujian Province is an important starting point of the ancient “Maritime Silk Road” that had witnessed the hustling and bustling of in- and out-bounding merchant ships that boosted not only mutually-beneficial trading activities but also cultural exchange and integration, with hereditary legends passed on up to the present day. “A time will come to ride the wind and cleave the waves, we will set cloudlike sail to cross the sea which raves.” I wish the giant ship of Confucius Institutes setting sail upon the great voyage of making known the power of language and sowing the seed of friendship every success in playing its due role in building a harmonious world with durable peace and common prosperity! 

The New Year is right at the corner. May I avail myself of this opportunity to wish you a happy new year with good health, family happiness and the best of luck! Thank you!