Confucius Institute to host largest summit
was once an ordeal.
In 1988, a family (above) in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region’s Wuzhou used ropes and a lot of help to move a sofa through the window because the corridors in the building were too narrow. But things have changed. Now, a house owner in Beijing (right) spends time on his mobile phone as two workers from a moving company, which he found online, pack his stuff.
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The Confucius Institute will hold its largest annual conference on Saturday in Kunming, Yunnan province.
Since it started in 2006, the event has discussed ways to make Chinese language and culture more accessible to foreigners.
This year’s topics include the global evaluation system for the Chinese language that has been designed by the institute and developing new programs to promote cultural exchanges between China and the world.
The Belt and Road Initiative, which China announced in 2013 to invigorate economic and cultural cooperation along the ancient Silk Road, and innovation — another priority of the central government — are also likely to be discussed at the meeting.
Vice-Premier Liu Yandong will deliver the keynote speech, a statement from the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing said.
More than 2,400 branch directors of the institute, university heads, government officials and diplomats from home and abroad are expected to attend the two-day conference.
Since the first Confucius Institute was established in 2004 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 511 branches have been opened in 140 countries where the Chinese language is taught and activities related to calligraphy and tai chi are organized. In a few countries, classes on traditional Chinese medicine are also conducted.
The United States has the biggest number of branches — 109.
More than 2.1 million students have taken courses at different branches, a media relations official at the Hanban, an Education Ministry affiliate that supervises the Confucius Institute, said.
“We have achieved the original goal for the number of branches for the period million between 2012 and 2020,” the official said.
“Our next priority is to improve the quality of courses.”
While no i mmediate expansion plans are on the horizon, the official said, more branches are likely to be established in countries hoping to join the Belt and Road Initiative.
The first Confucius Institute where TCM is taught opened in London South Bank University in 2007, following a partnership with Heilong jiang Traditional Chinese Medicine University. It offers a degree in acupuncture and has a clinic where traditional therapies, such as cupping, are available.
On Friday, a pre-conference seminar on promoting TCM and tai chi overseas was held in Kunming. It was attended by officials and representatives of more than 30 universities.
“I wanted to learn Chinese because I enjoy the Chinese martial arts,” David Kwock, a Chinese-language student at the University of Hawaii, said.
The Confucius Institute on his campus allows him to learn in a “non-pressure” atmosphere, which helps him pick up the language at his own pace, he said.
He suggested books like IntegratedChinese — a new learner’s series authored by academics from China and the US that is popular in North America — could be used for classes.
Similar to the British Council and Germany’s Goethe Institute, the Confucius Institute aims to provide language programs and cultural activities for foreigners in their home countries.
Last year, the conference was held in Shanghai.
students have taken courses at branches of the Confucius Institute, its headquarters said.
Yan Dongjie in Hawaii contributed to the story.