Judges and Contestants,
Teachers and Students,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to join you today at this UK Regional Final. This is the 16th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students.
For many years I have been following the “Chinese Bridge” closely. The first public event I attended shortly after arriving in London as Chinese Ambassador was the “Chinese Bridge” competition. I can still recall vividly the excellent speeches by the contestants as well as the warmth and enthusiasm of the audience:
· Since the first competition in 2002, the “Chinese Bridge” competition has so far attracted more than 10,000 contestants from over 70 countries around the world.
· It has become a world famous event due to its very high levels of cultural exchange.
· It has set up a perfect platform for young people around the world to learn the Chinese language.
· But, it is much more than that as it is an ideal way to learn about China and to exchange ideas.
· And it is a great way to build closer friendship between young people from all around the world.
The UK was one of the very first countries to host this “Chinese Bridge” competition.
· The Competitions in Britain are among the most well organized world-wide.
· British contestants are now well known for their great enthusiasm and a high standard of Chinese proficiency.
· More importantly, British students have always performed extraordinarily well in all the competitions.
· All this reflects how British enthusiasm for learning Chinese has been growing and spreading over the past few years.
· And the outcome is that this contest has become a highlight of the cultural exchanges between China and Britain.
During his State Visit to the UK in 2015, President Xi Jinping said:
“Language is the key to understanding a country.”
Then he added that through people-to-people exchanges:
“The essence of Chinese and British cultures has brought fantastic ‘chemical reactions’ into our people’s way of thinking and way of life.”
These words give us a higher and broader perspective for understanding the Chinese language boom in Britain.
First, the Chinese language is the optimal path through which to decode ancient Chinese civilization:
· For China language is very much the vehicle of Chinese civilization.
· China is a civilization of more than 5000 years. It is the longest continuous civilization.
· A key reason for this is the Chinese characters for written communication. They were created thousands of years ago and they are still in use today.
· These characters for writing have, in effect, carried the Chinese civilization down thousands of years to this day.
· Through these characters we access directly the minds of Confucius, Laozi and many other great thinkers of more than 2,000 years ago.
· The result is that the Chinese system of writing, and the ideas conveyed, has profoundly influenced the evolution of China.
· To a large extent Chinese writing has shaped the long-standing and unique value system of the Chinese nation.
· These values include:
o Loyalty and filial piety.
o A sense of propriety, justice, honesty and honour
o Harmony between man and nature.
o And the importance of learning from nature.
China and the UK are outstanding representatives of the Eastern and Western civilizations. More and more people of our two countries are learning each other’s language. This will not only enhance mutual understanding between China and Britain. It will also contribute to the mutual learning between the East and the West.
Let me turn to my second point. The Chinese language boom in Britain is prompted by the profound changes in today’s China:
· Language opens the window to knowledge.
· In less than four decades after China adopted the opening up and reform policy, the country has become the world’s second largest economy. In that process, China has helped more than 700 million people out of poverty.
· This is known as “China’s miracle”. It is a huge contribution to world development. It is also a focus of worldwide attention.
· People around the world are keen to learn about “China’s story” behind the “miracle”. They are eager to seize the opportunities associated with the enormous changes in China.
· Learning Chinese offers a deeper and more accurate understanding of China’s economic and social progress and the key to China’s success.
· By learning Chinese, you will be better prepared for the opportunity of China’s development.
· And you will be in a better position to reap the potential benefits.
My third point is, the Chinese language boom in the UK is a direct result of the steady growth of the China-UK relationship:
· Language is the bond between friends in China and UK.
· Over the years, as China-UK relations have grown steadily, more and more people in Britain are motivated to learn Chinese. This ranges from government officials to entrepreneurs and from teachers to journalists.
· More recently, the beginning of the “Golden Era” of China-UK relations prompted a new wave of enthusiasm for learning Chinese.
· Today, Britain is home to 29 Confucius Institute and 135 Confucius Classrooms. This almost quadruples the number there were seven years ago when I first came here. And it far outnumbers that of any country in Europe.
· The British government also attaches great importance to Chinese language teaching and promotion. One example is the Mandarin Excellence Programme announced last year.
· And more and more British universities invest resources in Chinese teaching. Oxford, Cambridge and some 50 other universities have been expanding the Chinese language curriculum.
The “Chinese Bridge” has not only helped build closer friendship. It has also brought up a number of “Chinese language stars”. Among them, Cameron James Patterson is an excellent representative. Better known for his Chinese name, Kang Ke, he won the first prize of the “Chinese Bridge” UK final and was the European champion in 2015.
During President Xi’s state visit to Britain, Patterson was one of the student representatives chanting a Chinese poem, In Memory of Jiao Yulu. The President praised Patterson for his clear articulation, mellow tones and appropriate expression of emotions. This has become a much-told story of China-UK friendship.
Ladies, Gentlemen and Students:
2017 marks 45 years of Ambassadorial diplomatic relations between China and Britain. We are heartened when we look back at the past 45 years. Our two countries have achieved a great deal in out bilateral cooperation across the broad. As we look ahead into the future, we are all the more confident in the “Golden Era” of China-UK relations.
I want to take this opportunity to pay my respect and express my appreciation to all the teachers and volunteers who have contributed their part to Chinese language teaching in Britain.
I hope you will make continuous efforts to enable closer exchanges and foster stronger friendship between our two peoples. You certainly have a great deal to contribute to the building of the “Golden Era” of China-UK relations
In conclusion, I wish every contestant today an excellent performance and a good result!
Now, I have the honour to announce:
The UK Regional Final of the 16th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students now begins!