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Home > Ambassador Liu > Events > 2010
Speech by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Joint Conference of European Confucius Institutes
6 September 2010, London South Bank University

Mme Xu Lin, Director-General of Hanban,

Mr Qiao Zonghuai, Counsellor of the State Council and Senior Consultant to the Confucius Institute Headquarters,

Mr Mark Hendrick MP,

Professor Martin Earwicker, Vice Chancellor of the London South Bank University,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to join you at the Confucius Institute of London South Bank University for the Second Joint Conference of European Confucius Institutes. I wish to offer my warm congratulations on the opening of this conference.

Language is a growing part of our lives in the 21st century. As China continues to enjoy fast economic growth and extensive contact with the rest of the world, there has been ever greater demand for mandarin learning in many countries.

It is estimated that 40 million people are learning mandarin worldwide, and the number of mandarin learners in Europe and the US is growing by 40% annually. As the slogan of a popular mandarin teaching programme reads, “Learn Chinese and make friends all over the world!” This is quite true, not only as there are sizeable Chinese communities everywhere, but also because people from many parts of the world are united by a global “mandarin fever”.

The Confucius Institutes were set up to respond to this trend. They helped to make the learning of Chinese more accessible and easier, which in turn attracted more people into mandarin learning. The Confucius Institutes have evolved into an important platform for foreigners to learn Chinese and understand the Chinese culture. And as such they contributed a lot to promoting cultural exchanges and deepening the friendship and cooperation between the Chinese people and peoples all over the world.

In the UK, mandarin learning and Confucius Institutes are growing in tandem. Mandarin has been put on the curriculum of over 500 primary and secondary schools. Last September, the British government made Chinese another GCSE subject.

I was deeply impressed by the keen interest in Chinese culture and the quality of the Chinese learning here . Last March shortly after my arrival in London, I attended the Ninth Chinese Proficiency Competition in the UK. Johnson Stewart, an undergraduate at SOAS, University of London, won the competition. He went on to win the top prize in Beijing and was awarded the title “ambassador of the Chinese language”.

So far 12 Confucius Institutes and 53 Confucius Classrooms have been set up by Hanban in cooperation with British universities, businesses, educational bodies and secondary schools, making Britain a leader in mandarin learning in Europe. Britain was also the first country to set up a Confucius Institute for Business and another one for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I’m glad to learn that the Confucius Institutes in the UK are doing well. Some of their courses were listed as optional courses in the host universities. Confucius Institutes and Classrooms are also making efforts to engage the local people to deepen their interest in and understanding about Chinese culture.

As Confucius said, “Think long or worries are not far away”. While we are heartened by the vibrant growth of Confucius Institutes, we also need to carefully plan for their long-term future. They are working hard to improve quality and explore a sustainable way forward. For that they would need high quality teaching materials, more qualified teachers and more tailored made teaching methods.

I am glad to note that this conference takes as its theme “the sustainable development of European Confucius Institutes”. I am confident that you will be able to fully exchange ideas and explore the best way to achieve this objective.

To conclude, I wish the conference a complete success. I also wish Confucius Institutes and Classrooms every success in making greater contribution to the understanding and friendship between the peoples of China and Europe.

Thank you.

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