Passing on the charm of Chinese language continuing the splendid chapter of China and Africa

By Chen Xufeng

The April 20th 2022, is the solar term “Grain Rain”, and also the 13th Chinese Language Day. “Grain Rain” is the 6th of the 24 solar terms, and the last solar term of spring. It embodies the beauty when spring turns to summer, and represents the growth of all things. It is said that the Inventor of Chinese Characters, Cang Jie, created Chinese characters on this day. At that time, the people were suffering from famine. Heaven poured rain of grain to appreciate Cang Jie’s contribution, as a result, the people were saved. The United Nations selects “Grain Rain” as Chinese Language Day, to commemorate the contribution of Cang Jie.

Chinese language and characters, rooted in traditional Chinese culture, are important carriers of Chinese culture. From Oracle to Regular script, from Confucius and Mencius to Neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming Dynasties, from the Four Great Inventions to PI, from the Great Wall to the Terracotta Warriors, the Chinese civilization, which has undergone over 5,000 years of historical changes, embodies the deepest spiritual aspirations of the Chinese nation and is the source of its endless growth. Chinese culture has a long history, which contains the cosmological view of harmony between man and nature, the international view of harmony among nations, the social view of harmony without uniformity, and the moral view of goodwill among people. The concepts of peace, amity and harmony are in the DNA of the Chinese nation, and have shaped the unique style of Major Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics.

Since the reform and opening-up, China has become increasingly connected with the world and there is an ever-growing demand for the world and China to understand each other. The Chinese language, written in Chinese characters, embodies the wisdom of the Chinese civilization. It is the common wealth of all mankind and is playing an increasingly important role in promoting exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations and enhancing friendship between the Chinese people and people of other countries. According to statistics, by the end of 2021, more than 25 million people were learning Chinese outside China, and the total number of foreign Chinese learners have reached nearly 200 million. In Africa, 16 countries included Chinese language in their education system, over 600 thousand African people are learning and using Chinese. Through learning Chinese, more and more international friends have gradually learned about the customs, etiquette, social structure, ethics and philosophical thinking of the Chinese nation over thousands of years, and experienced China’s rapid development and changes. China is also actively engaged in cooperation with other countries in this regard. More than 1,500 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms and more than 60 overseas cultural and tourism institutions have been set up in 159 countries. 61 Confucius Institutes and 11 Classrooms as well as 6 China Culture Centers have been established in 46 African countries. These act as a platform to further promote exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign civilizations. On April 20th, Mission of China to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa jointly hosted the Chinese Language Day celebration. The Mission also exhibited on its social media Chinese cultural symbols, traditional moral concepts, policies and propositions with their writing, pronunciation and interpretation, which showed the charm of Chinese to African friends, and also provided a platform for exchanges and learning of Chinese culture.

Africa is one of the cradles of human civilization. The ancient Egyptian civilization, the Kingdom of Axum, the Songhai Empire and the Swahili civilization are all treasures of human civilization and have created colorful African cultures. The traditional Chinese and African civilizations both embody the values of collectivism, harmonious coexistence between people and between man and nature. This not only brings the Chinese and African peoples closer, but also embodies the common aspiration of both sides to respect cultural diversity and overcome cultural misunderstanding through exchanges. The Chinese Government is always committed to promoting people-to-people exchange between China and Africa to further enhance mutual understanding and friendship. Over the past years, the two sides have carried out signature culture programs such as the Year of Culture, Happy Spring Festival, Chinese and African Cultures in Focus. We also encouraged joint development and production of more works that tell stories about Africa and China-Africa friendship. Last year, under AU’s theme of “Arts, Culture and Heritage”, China and African countries overcame the difficulties caused by COVID-19 pandemic and made full use of online and offline platforms to carry out a series of cultural & tourism, art & heritage workshops and seminars with rich contents and distinctive themes. We also further promoted Confucius Institutes and Luban Workshops to bring benefits to Africa. Last year during the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward “Nine Programs” to further China-Africa cooperation, of which “the cultural and people-to-people exchange program” is an important part. China and Africa will host film festivals in each other’s countries, hold China-Africa women and youth forums, support making more and more African countries become destinations for Chinese tourist groups, in order to further exchanges in education, culture, tourism, media, science and technology, and facilitate dialogues among think tanks, youth and women.

Diversity of civilizations is an inexhaustible driving force for human progress, and exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations are the common aspiration of people of all countries. Only by promoting exchanges, dialogue and harmonious coexistence between different civilizations can we overcome the trap of clash of civilizations and achieve significant progress and development. We will continue to advocate the vision on civilization of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness. Led by Global Development Initiative, Belt & Road Initiative and FOCAC, we will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation, as well as our exchange and mutual learning, so as to lay solid foundations for Community with a Shared Future for China and Africa and for the mankind, and to inject lasting impetus into the enduring friendship, common development and progress of the Chinese and African peoples.
Chen Xufeng is Chargé d’Affaires of Mission of China to the AU for the Celebration of the UN Chinese Language Day.

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