Feature: Go for Dreams and Learn to Use—Middle East Stories of Belt and Road Initiative

发布时间:2018-09-19 12:13:14   来源:Xinhua    浏览次数:

“China, though far away, we should go and learn its knowledge.” a maxim that has been circulated across the Middle East for over one thousand years. It could be beautiful description for China from the ancient Arab merchants travelling along the Maritime Silk Road, or inspired from the detailed records about China of such Arabic ancient works as Accounts of China and India. Knowledge, since then, has been what many Middle Easterners sailed across ocean for.

As thousand years pass by, the modern time echoes the history. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has propelled the growing trend among students in Middle Eastern countries to pursue an education in China and learn Chinese language. It is an opportunity as well as a dream for students to get educated and practice what they have learned. Knowledge, down the rejuvenated Silk Road, stimulates again the vying sails.

Learn Chinese and Seize Opportunities Brought by the Silk Road

Accounts of China and India, finished in the middle of the 9th century, is the first Arabic work comprehensively describing China. Many parts of the book show the author’s admiration and respect for the ancient Chinese’s emphasis on culture and education. “Each city has a school and teachers paid by the state educate the poor and their children. Chinese, rich or poor, young or old, all learn to read and write,” recorded in the book.

Nowadays, it is common that citizens from the Middle East countries come to China for long-term study or short-term training, which offers broad and in-depth discussion of topics. For example, since the training course on desertification prevention and control in Arab countries was held by Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in 2006, over 240 people from Arab countries have attended the training courses to learn relevant technologies.

The BRI has facilitated the talent exchanges. Imad Fakhoury, former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan who just left office in June, said China has been the largest human resources training provider for Jordan in 2017. According to the introduction of the Chinese Embassy in Jordan, in 2017, 305 Jordanian people enjoyed training provided by China, up by 23% year on year. Currently, enrolment for 39 education programs with academic degrees in 2018 is underway in order.

Hamidah is an Iranian girl born and brought up in Kuwait. In August 2011, she decided to study in China right after her eighteenth birthday. She recalled that she made a right decision because her time in China left her a crucial and fantastic growth experience.

Hamidah used to know little about China. After six years of her undergraduate and postgraduate study in Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, she is totally fascinated by China. She has not only adapted to Chinese food and climate, falling in love with Chinese delicacies, but also visited over 20 cities, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Changsha, and Nanchang. Hamidah also advised her younger brother to come to China for university study, saying “It’s so convenient here. I can go to other places wherever I like.”

In January 2018, Hamidah went back and united with her parents in Kuwait. To her surprise, with her edge in Chinese, she found a job after returning home for less than 20 days. At the time, Hamidah sent her resume via WeChat and attracted attention of many companies, among which, she chose Huawei. She is now a product delivery coordinator in charge of negotiation with local distributors and other matters of coordination and promotion.

As the BRI brings development opportunities to more and more Middle Easterners, China is known, understood, and paid attention to by more people. Hamidah said her job gave her opportunities to introduce Chinese products, culture and ideas to the locals, which makes her an “unofficial ambassador”, promoting the understanding, cooperation, and integration between two peoples.

Learn Skills and Pursue Shared Dreams

According to Accounts of China and India, Oman is one of the starting points of Middle Eastern merchant ships bound for China in ancient times.

Nowadays, along the trace of the ancient Silk Road, Chinese enterprises help Oman to forge a new starting point. China-Oman (Duqm) Industrial Park, invested by Wanfang Investment Management (Ningxia) Co., Ltd, covers 12 square kilometres. It is regarded as the largest industrial park in Oman invested by a single country. It is also the largest industrial park that China invests in Arab countries with an aim to strengthen production capacity cooperation.

Talent cultivation is an investment for the future. Sha Yanju, Chairman of the park, said the industrial park would cooperate with Omani government and select a group of graduated senior school students to go further study in China with the financial support of the industrial park. The park plans to cultivate 1000 overseas students for Oman in the next eight to ten years.

In June 2018, the first group of 39 Omani students returned to Oman after finishing their one-year-and-a-half study in Ningxia Polytechnic. They will finish half a semester’s internship in enterprises before working in the industrial park.

The overseas student Syed Ali said China is a country with ancient civilization and complete industrial system and advanced technologies. During his study in China, he not only experienced profound Chinese cultural heritage, but also learned the required technologies and skills for modern social development.

In the Middle East, the BRI has started a “Chinese language craze” and “China craze”. Ahmed Foda, an Egyptian student from the Chinese Department of Ain Shams University in Egypt, began to learn Chinese language in this craze, which has changed his life.

Ahmed’s Chinese name is “Dawei”. He is 23 years old. He has visited China to take part in various activities for many times since he started learning Chinese. He used to teach high school students English as a volunteer in Tianjin and then hosted “East and West”, a program of Tianjin TV, for three months. In August 2016, Dawei won the second prize at the “Chinese Bridge” final and the first prize at the Africa regional final. Now, he works in a Chinese media’s branch in Egypt and intends to go for a master’s degree in China.

Dawei said he learned to be steadfastness and diligence from his Chinese friends during these years of learning Chinese. “I experienced failure, frustration, and confusion, but I eventually understood the meaning of ‘There is no royal road to learning.’ That’s why I persist in seeking my Chinese Dream bravely,” said Dawei. Still more Chinese fans like him can be found in Arab countries and the number of Arabs who love China keeps growing.

Carry Torch of Traditions and Build Bridge of People-to-people Exchanges

Li Yansheng was the first recorded Arab in Chinese history to pass the highest level of imperial examinations, which selected candidates for the state bureaucracy. In the Mid-Tang period, he boarded an Arab merchant ship to China, settled down in China, and gave himself a Chinese name. Having studied Chinese culture industriously, he acquired profound learning. Later, for his exceptional talents, he was recommended by Chinese local officials to take the imperial examinations. And he became a qualified candidate and was personally appointed by the emperor as an imperial academician.

Nowadays, as cultural and people-to-people exchanges of the BRI have been expanded, an increasing number of scholars and experts on China studies are going to the Middle East. They impart professional knowledge, train more Chinese speakers and build up a new bridge for people-to-people exchanges.

Hassan Ragab is Director of the Confucius Institute at Suez Canal University in Egypt. He has just returned home after leading outstanding Chinese majors from various Egyptian universities to take part in summer camps in China.

Ragab finished top in the college entrance examination in his hometown in 1980. Previously, Ragab’s father had brought home some Chinese publications, through which he immediately developed an interest in Chinese characters. As he was also interested in ancient Chinese culture, Ragab decided to study Chinese, even though the major was not popular back then.

Ragab, therefore, became one of the first Chinese majors in Ain Shams University in Egypt. At the time, there were only 3 teachers and 7 students in the Chinese Language Department. Owing to his excellent academic performance, Ragab was recommended to improve his language skill at Beijing Language and Culture University in 1982. After graduation, he furthered his study for a postgraduate degree. After that, he returned to his Alma Mater in Egypt and taught in the Chinese Language Department, in which Chinese has now become one of the most prominent majors.

Ragab said there is a well-known saying, that “Languages follow national flags”. The language of one country would carry more weight in the global community if the country grows stronger and gains more international influence. As the BRI develops, Chinese language has shifted from a “dull subject” to a popular one. For example, Suez Canal University recruits 300 foreign language majors every year, of which the top 30 scorers are admitted into the Chinese Language Department. The number of Egyptian students studying in China is climbing up year by year as well. In 2017, the total number is 86.

Mohamed Hassan Mohamed, Head of the Chinese Language Department at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Khartoum in Sudan, felt the same for the rising popularity of Chinese language. He recalled that by the time he was studying Chinese at this University, there were only 15 students, and no specialized textbooks and fixed classrooms in the department. Nowadays, however, the department has developed rapidly following the establishment of Master and Doctoral Degrees. Currently, it has 18 students in one grade, and all of them are learning with great enthusiasm.

“Chinese majors are improving their proficiency in the language. We are preparing to open Chinese language departments at Alzaiem Alazhari University and Kassala University in Sudan,” said Hassan.

Hassan believes that the BRI will strengthen Sudan-China relations and the friendship between the two peoples. He said, “People-to-people relations are fundamental, which can also improve relationships among governments. Civil exchanges between the two countries will grow and our relations will be closer.”

(Written by by Shao Jie; contributed by Zhang Xu, Yu Tao, Zheng Siyuan,Yang Yuanyong, Wang Wei, Nie Yunpeng, Lin Xiaowei, Huang ling, and Ma Yichong, Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, September 11th, 2018)

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