Cultural Exchange Crucial for China and Africa

January 29, 2017: People gather to celebrate during the opening ceremony of the Chinese New Year Cultural Festival at the Nanhua Temple in Parys, South Africa. VCG

Cultural exchange is always considered a key element to approach, discover and understand others. The exchange of culture can break down barriers, foster a good will and lead to cooperation in multiple fields.

China and Africa have made the best example of fruitful cultural exchange since the 1950s when China established diplomatic ties with Egypt. As more and more African countries broke from colonialism, many agreements for cultural exchanges have been signed with China. All the efforts have given rise to the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. Representatives from more than 40 African countries attended its first meeting.

In China, cultural exchange is seen from day to day between Chinese and African citizens. Take education as an example: According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), in 2014 China overtook the U.S. and the U.K. and became one of the top destinations for African students. According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, in 2015 nearly 400,000 foreign students studied in universities in the Chinese mainland, and 50,000 of them are Africans.

The educational cooperation programs for students, artists and others generate productive cultural exchange and forge friendly relationship for the future. Educational institutes play an important role. Confucius Institutes in different African countries share knowledge, present Chinese culture and provide opportunities for local Africans at their doors. Similarly, on Chinese soil, African research institutes introduce the continent’s culture through seminaries and other events, and collaborate with African universities to exchange students with offered scholarship.

Cultural exchange works through the China-Africa cooperation system, from macro to micro level. Both Chinese and African governments agree with the good will to cooperate and exchange human resources, experience, knowledge, etc. And cultural exchange keeps growing between the citizens in their daily life.

The Belt and Road Initiative came also as a result of China’s cultural exchange with the rest of the world. African countries blessed it and contributed to this Initiative. The China-Africa cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative is creating a win-win situation for both sides.

The 7th China-Africa Think Tank Forum has given a new picture of cultural exchange. Globally both sides now are planning and contributing to long-term cooperation in many fields, and it’s time to go further than sharing—to build together a bright future for China and Africa.


The author is a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University.

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