BRUSSELS — Premier Li Keqiang will attend the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Brussels this week and pay a working visit to Belgium, which is known as the “Heart of Modern Europe.”
In 1971, the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium opened a new chapter for their relations. In spring 2014, President Xi Jinping made a historic state visit to Belgium, elevating China-Belgium relations to a new height.
Today, frequent political communications, close trade cooperation and booming people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and Belgium are adding fresh impetus to bilateral relations.
Many of Belgium’s renowned productions, notably The Smurfs and the Adventures of Tintin, are now very popular in China. Likewise, China’s giant pandas have become an important emblem of friendship, and baby panda “Tianbao,” born in Belgium in June 2016, has become a Belgian superstar.
The Brussels China Cultural Center, which was launched in 2015, has hosted nearly 300 events, large and small, and established key intercultural forums and avenues of dialogue through such initiatives as the “Media Breakfast Meeting,” “Cultural Experience Day” and “Chinese Movie Night,” among others.
Today, the center has more than 2,700 registered members and has become one of the main entry points for cultural exchanges between China and Europe.
Given that China’s image can be sometimes misunderstood in the West, the cultural center is playing a vital role in promoting Chinese culture around the European Union, benefiting from its strategic location in proximity to the EU institutions.
Overseas Chinese living in Belgium are also an integral force in strengthening cultural exchanges between China and Belgium. Since 2016, the Chinese Embassy has cooperated with local Chinese communities to hold a Chinese New Year parade for three consecutive years in Brussels, Dinant and Ghent, attracting tens of thousands of local Belgians in the process.
A growing number of students are also heading to China to pursue their higher education, thus providing a growing platform for Belgian and Chinese younger generations to interact, which in the long term will create a solid foundation for the future development of Sino-Belgian relations.
Belgium boasts many top universities in Europe, and has unique cutting-edge technologies in the fields of microelectronics, biomedicine, energy conservation and environmental protection, and modern agriculture. Thousands of Chinese students come to the country for education or exchanges each year.
Chinese language education is also on the rise in Belgium. In addition to Chinese studies and Chinese translation programs on offer at several universities across the country, there are now six Confucius Institutes which have recently opened their doors.
In recent years, hundreds of Belgian high school students have participated in summer camps in China for short-term study exchanges. They have learned Chinese language and got an insight into Chinese culture, which help promote exchanges and friendships between students as well as between schools of the two countries.
In November 2017, the Chinese Embassy in Belgium handed out “China-Belgium Friendship Award” to six of its outstanding representatives for their active role in promoting Chinese culture and help enhance Belgian people’s understanding of China.
Situated in the heart of Europe, Belgium has been in the vanguard of cultural exchanges between China and Europe.
In April 2016, the Europe-China “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) Culture & Tourism Development Committee was officially launched in Brussels. The Committee promised to place a greater emphasis on culture and tourism in the framework of the OBOR project. It also aims to promote EU-China cooperation by acting as the “European pillar” of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.