Confucius Institutes Athens conference aims to deepen China-Europe ties

Belt & Road
The 2018 European Confucius Institutes Joint Conference started in Athens on Monday aiming to strengthen the cooperation between China and Europe.

XinhuaUpdated: May 22, 2018

The 2018 European Confucius Institutes Joint Conference started in Athens on Monday aiming to strengthen the cooperation between China and Europe.

Some 90 delegates from China and Confucius Institutes across Europe gathered in the Greek capital for a two-day event.

The main goal was to explore ways to improve the teaching of Chinese language in Europe and build a stronger cultural bridge to facilitate the better understanding between nations, keynote speakers said at the opening ceremony.

"I hope there will be a closer cooperation between China and Europe to make our friendship last long and profound," Professor Jiang Qingzhe, president of the academic council of the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics, said.

Since its establishment in 2004 in order to promote Chinese culture and language around the world, the Confucius Institutes have been developing rapidly worldwide, speakers said, presenting some impressive numbers.

Up until now 526 Confucius Institutes (CIs) and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms (CCs) have been set up in 147 countries around the world.

By 2017 the number of all kind of CI students had reached 1.7 million with teacher population, both Chinese and local, of 46,000.

In order to improve the operation of the institutes to make it more effective and better in quality, regional conferences are held regularly to discuss problems and find solutions to common challenges.

This week in Athens gathered representatives of 34 CIs from 14 European countries, Professor Emmanouil Giakoumakis, rector of the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) said, in his welcome speech.

"We envision our (Business Confucius Institute) BCI to become a center of excellence for promoting Chinese culture and business in Greece," he said presenting the Athens Business Confucius Institute which is hosted since 2008 by AUEB.

The Athens BCI, the first and only Confucius Institute operating in Greece, offers certified Chinese language courses to Greeks and organizes activities and seminars of culture, philosophy, arts and business to enhance the Sino-Greek ties.

The Athens BCI hosts for first time the European Confucius Institutes Joint Conference which is held every two years.

Zhao Guocheng, deputy director-general of Hanban, stressed, addressing Monday's opening session, one of the special links connecting Greece and China which is at the heart of the Confucius Institute philosophy worldwide.

Zhao referred to the teachings of Confucius and ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and how 25 centuries later they still guide CIs teachers and students to the search of the ideal.

"The Confucian pedagogical concept of 'Teaching students according to their talent' and the Socratic 'problem- oriented midwifery' teaching methodology have shed new light on the construction of CIs in Europe and even the whole world. I think this conference will surely be a success under the enlightenment of their great ideas," Zhao said.

On his part, Wang Qiang, political counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Greece, underlined the significant role the Confucius Institute holds in strengthening East-West cooperation in many sectors.

"The Confucius Institute ....provides an important platform for widening people to people exchanges and deepening friendship, thus playing a positive role in the Belt and Road Initiative," Wang said.

"It can also play a special role in promoting and cultivating new type of international relations, which will eventually lead to the emergence of a community of shared future for mankind," he stressed.

Speaking to Xinhua about the role the Athens BCI plays in these efforts, Professor Zu Lijun, co-director of the Confucius Institute in AUEB, said that the target for the future is to work harder to contribute more to the further enhancement of Sino-Greek friendship and collaboration in all fields.

"Basically what we will do in the future is to enlarge, to expand the scope for our CI teaching and teachers...The other task is to communicate with the local people, to give them some Chinese culture knowledge," Zu said.