The year of 2015 has been an important one for the development of China-Latin America relations, when cultural exchanges became the highlight of bilateral ties.
Premier Li Keqiang made official visits to four South American countries in May this year, bringing significant achievements on practical cooperation and cultural exchanges.
As another major diplomatic event following President Xi Jinping’s visit to the region last year, Premier Li’s visit has further advanced China-Latin America ties in a new “five-in-one” model.
SHINING LITERARY EXCHANGES
Premier Li pointed out during his visit that the cooperation between China and Latin America is not only at the material level but at the spiritual level as well and the latter is worth more attention.
The powerful role of literature should be emphasized in realizing spiritual communication between the two sides, according to Premier Li.
“Strengthening exchange and mutual learning in literary and art circles between China and Latin America will help promote the people-to-people spiritual communication and establish solid public opinion foundation for continuously deepened practical cooperation,” he said.
Chinese writers for the first time accompanied the visit, including Nobel Prize laureate Mo Yan, bestselling spy-thriller writer Mai Jia, and Chinese Writers Association Chairwoman Tie Ning.
They attended a seminar in Colombia on cultural exchanges between China and Latin America and spoke to audience including Premier Li and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Taking the examples of Mo Yan and the famous Columbian noble prize winner Garcia Marquez, Tie Ning spoke highly of the role of literature in promoting cultural ties.
She also proposed the plan to facilitate translation on China and Latin American literature works so as to further promote their mutual understandings.
LOCALIZATION OF CHINESE-TEACHING
The Chinese-teaching pattern has undergone great changes in 2015 and gradually entered into local public education system of Latin America. In March, the world’s first Chinese-Spanish bilingual public school marked its anniversary in Argentina.
The educational experiment there has been progressing smoothly, with the number of students doubling this year, and half of them are Chinese.
“In the past, one learned French for literature and English for business. What is the language of the future? Maybe Chinese,” Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires wrote on his social network account.
Student enrolling for Chinese lessons in 2015 has increased at least by 30 percent compared with last year, according to the statistics of Chinese Culture Association in Argentina.
In February, Brazil opened its first Portuguese-Chinese bilingual high school, officially adding Chinese teaching into its basic public education system.
Meanwhile, as the largest institute for Chinese learning and with the most flexible Chinese teaching patterns, the Confucius Institute has also developed by leaps and bounds in the region this year.
The Confucius Institute has built 35 branches and 11 Confucius Classrooms in 15 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean region since 2006, with its first facility opened in Mexico City and millions learning Chinese in Latin America at present.
The second training program for local Chinese language teachers in Latin America was held in a Confucius Institute of Lima, capital of Peru in August, to help 49 local teachers with the latest teaching methodology and Chinese culture.
Training programs for Chinese teachers are necessary as they improve the teaching quality, promote the sustainable development of Chinese teaching, and deepen mutual understandings, said Jia Guide, Chinese ambassador to Peru.
TRADITIONAL CULTURE GETS POPULAR
During his visit, Premier Li stressed that both China and Latin America can, with an open mind, respect each other and facilitate exchanges and mutual learning for common progress.
During the Chinese Spring Festival season this year, artists from China brought performances to Panama City, Chile’s capital city of Santiago and Brazil’s Rio and Sao Paulo, featuring Kong Fu, Chinese dance and music.
Typical Chinese festival activities have gradually become part of the local cultural events in Latin America. In Sao Paulo this year, Chinese New Year events lasted two days, attracting about 100,000 people.
Ancient Chinese medicine practices are also catching much attention in Latin America. A delegation of physicians visited Colombia, Costa Rica and Chile in November.
They held their first free clinic in Bogota, capital city of Colombia, demonstrating traditional Chinese remedies, which have received excellent responses.
Besides, Qigong, the ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique, also gained its popularity in the region.
Argentina Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine has so far provided training to over 3,000 Argentinians and Chinese-Argentinians on Qigong.
The promotion of Qigong is not only for the spread of a healthy way of exercise but more importantly for the popularization of Chinese culture as well, said Zhong Qing, president of Argentina Chinese Cultural Development Foundation.
MEDIA EXCHANGES OPENING NEW PROSPECTS
In 2015, the two sides have been strengthening media exchanges within the overall framework of bilateral cooperation.
Mainstream media in China opened their social media accounts in Spanish and Portuguese for better interaction. Latin American countries also actively involved themselves in deep media exchanges with their Chinese counterparts.
As part of the China-Argentina comprehensive strategic partnership, two universities in Argentina trained journalists with a specific focus on China in September.
Participants attended courses during the week-long training on the Sino-Argentina relationship and the characteristics of contemporary China, etc.
In July, the Argentinian Senate and China’s Xinhua News Agency signed an institutional cooperation agreement, which aimed to promote cultural exchanges and improve mutual awareness of Chinese and Argentinian societies.