Chinese Ambassador Encourages Mutual Learning

Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Ren Yisheng, said to bring an end to the estrangement and clashes between different civilizations and the claim of the supremacy of one over the others, “we must promote exchanges, encourage mutual learning, and advocate coexistence.”

Amb. Yisheng, made these remarks on Saturday, April 23 2022 when he spoke at a one-day Symposium on “Chinese Language Education in West Africa.” The online event which was organized by the Confucius Institute (CI) at the University of Liberia (UL) was also held in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy. 

The event brought together Confucius Institutes partnered with universities in West Africa which include the University of Ghana, the University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, the University of Sierra Leone, and the University of Benin. The Symposium was aimed at discussing the progress and challenges of the Confucius Institute programs in West Africa. 

Speaking further the Chinese Ambassador noted that the Chinese language is a "golden key", as he expressed hope that Liberians and other Africans will use the language to open the door to understanding Chinese civilization and promote mutual learning, mutual respect, and mutual trust not only between China and Liberia, China and West Africa but also between China and Africa, Asian and African civilizations.

He explained that the Chinese language acquisition has a special and significant role to play, especially in three aspects; gathering support for world peace, paving the way for mutual assistance, and win-win cooperation, which he said opens the door to mutual learning and profound understanding.

The Chinese Diplomat told participants that despite the impact of Covid-19 on international travel and educational exchanges, “I can still see among the young people here in Liberia a growing enthusiasm for studying in China.”

Ambassador Ren emphasized that peace and benevolence are traditional values that are deeply rooted in the heart of the Chinese people, and that’s why “the Chinese language is a key”, that opens the door to understanding these values, such as Confucius' teaching of "harmony without uniformity".

He recalled that each year, about 50 Liberian students are awarded Chinese Government Scholarships in various categories mostly masters and Ph.D. “It is our hope also that the pandemic control situation will improve much sooner to allow these students to join their colleagues in various universities in China to continue or start their studies,” Amb. Yisheng noted. 

Ambassador Yisheng also noted that the world today is still not free from cultural barriers and walls of bigotry. It has also enabled us to realize that mankind is a community with a shared future and that regardless of nationality, race, skin color, or language, the world is one big family.

According to him, the diversity of human civilization is the basic feature of the world and the source of human progress. He added that there are more than 200 countries and regions, and more than 2,500 nationalities and religions in the world. “Different history and national conditions, different nationalities and customs have bred different civilizations and made the world more colorful. 

Cross the trap of clash of civilizations, and respect each other's development path independently chosen by each country. This is the constructive way of achieving and maintaining world peace.”

Amb. Yisheng: “We have had fruitful cooperation in tackling the COVID-19 outbreak, coordinating policies, sharing experience, and providing medical supplies. The empathy and support between the peoples of our two countries are especially heartwarming.” 

He also acknowledged that China and Liberia join forces to control COVID-19, and a joint push for economic recovery and pragmatic cooperation are making steady progress and yielding new outcomes.  

He further disclosed that this will enable talented young people who are fluent in both Chinese and English to make a significant contribution. “As is known, the Belt and Road Initiative aims at win-win results and common prosperity, this can be achieved through strengthening connectivity in infrastructure. 

I hope you will leverage your bilingual skills to promote mutual understanding of the Chinese and African people and subsequently contribute to mutually beneficial cooperation for the well-being of the people. 

University of Liberia president Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson, disclosed that the university prides itself to be the “backbone”, of Chinese language education in West Africa.

Dr. Nelson in his deliberations noted that in June this year, the administration of the university is expected to present to the faculty senate of the university a proposal to approve the Bachelor of Arts program proposal for Chinese language and cultural studies.

“This partnership with the Confucius Institute goes beyond our borders. And we are encouraging everyone, especially Liberians to learn the Chinese language”, Dr. Nelson said.

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Also speaking was Prof. Josephine Dzahene Quarshie of the Confucius Institute at the University of Ghana, and on the topic: “Thriving in a Time of Crisis”. Prof. Quarshie explained that Ghana has over 1000 Chinese major students in the BA program, with the language program being taught at eight teaching sites having 4,000 students across the country.

For Nigeria, the Institute Local Director Dr. Banwo Adetoro Olaniyi of the University of Lagos explained in the “Dynamics of Chinese Language Teaching, a case study at the University of Lagos stated that Chinese language education has become necessary in Nigeria as the country seeks to deepen its cooperation with China. 

The CIUL, as the first Confucius Institute in West Africa, was jointly established by the University of Liberia and Changsha University of Science & Technology in Monrovia in December 2008. 

Presently, CIUL is the only institution providing Chinese language courses for free and the only Chinese Test Center to organize HSK, HSKK, in Liberia. However, the institute's aim is to promote cultural exchange and friendship between Liberia and China.

Currently, Chinese language and cultural studies are offered as an undergraduate major by the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos, and at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, the University of Ghana, the University of Sierra Leone, and the University of Benin.

However, the institute in 2021 disclosed that there were 1,420 registered students, while the total number of students that have enrolled in various programs was 21,420.  Dexter S. Sumo, Director of the Institute, said that this year they will have 59 classes with a total of 3,448 teaching hours, while two classes of Chinese courses are arranged to cater to 40 social students.