On April 5th, the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” University Presidents Forum, as part of a series of celebrations of the 95th anniversary of the establishment of Xiamen University (XMU), kicked off at XMU. This Forum attracted approximately 60 delegates, including 27 university presidents and directors of Confucius Institutes around the world, who conducted discussions on three major themes, namely, the role of Confucius Institutes in making higher education more global, mutual cultural learning between Confucius Institutes and countries along the Belt and Road regions, and the role of Confucius Institutes in developing the “Belt and Road”.
In her remarks at the opening ceremony, Madam Xu Lin, Chief Executive of Confucius Institute Headquarters and Director General of Hanban, pointed out that the five major goals of the Belt and Road Initiative lay in policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bond, among which people-to-people bond is of crucial importance. She believed that, as a bridge and platform facilitating people-to-people bonds, Confucius Institutes would further enhance their influence and cohesion through this Forum, so as to better serve the economic and social development of countries along the Belt and Road regions.
Madam Xu Lin pointed out that the main task of Confucius Institutes in the next decade would be to promote bilateral exchanges, and more efforts should be made not only to make Chinese culture “go global”, but also to “bring in” elements from other cultures. She emphasized the importance of better language exchanges as well as that of cultural communication, thereby stimulating the integration and shared development of Chinese and other civilizations.
While addressing the event, Mr. Zhu Chongshi, President of XMU, talked about the milestone significance of “Belt and Road” Initiative for education, stressing that the Initiative would help to foster the development of Confucius Institutes and Confucius Institutes in turn would make their contributions to the development of the Initiative.
“How to promote the cooperation between host universities and Confucius Institutes and enhance other international exchanges in education is a key issue that requires our careful consideration and in-depth discussions”, said Mr. Zhu.
Freddy Boey, Deputy President and Provost of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, believed that the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” Initiative had provided excellent opportunities for NTU, one of the first universities to host a Confucius Institute, to strengthen its ties with China. NTU has established sound collaboration with Tianjin and Suzhou and will cooperate with more Chinese cities in the near future.
Indian Chancellor singing Chinese folk songs
Sanjay Deshmukh, Chancellor of Mumbai University, India, addressed the attendees in Chinese, saying that both Xiamen and Mumbai are metropolises built on islands. “You worship Goddess Matsu in Xiamen, and in Mumbai we also have her counterpart.” Then he went on to sing a Chinese folk song the Love Song of Kang Ding, which he said he had picked up while attending conferences regarding Confucius Institutes held in Beijing. Mr. Deshmukh also acknowledged that he, of course, greatly marveled at Confucius’ wisdom and philosophy.
According to the Chancellor, the Confucius Institute at Mumbai University, founded in 2013, and the Ji Xianlin Research Institute at Mumbai University are two platforms through which to bring Chinese culture into India and will become India’s significant research institutes.
By quoting Confucius’s saying, “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous”, Mr. Deshmukh contended that the contributions and achievements of Confucius Institutes would play a vital role in the making higher education and Chinese culture more global. The “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” Initiative, in particular, has attracted more Indian students to pursue their studies at Confucius Institutes.
Editor’s Note: By the end of 2015, 500 Confucius Institutes and 1000 Confucius Classrooms had been established in 134 countries and regions around the world. There are 131 Confucius Institutes and 119 Confucius Classrooms established in dozens of countries along the Belt and Road regions — a network that covers a total population of more than 1 billion. Confucius Institutes will play a vital role in the “Belt and Road” Initiative.