Cultural exchange is 'irreplaceable' in China-EU relations

Written by Ding Wei on 5 October 2014 in Feature

The high-level people-to-people dialogue can help to enhance 'mutual interest, understanding and opinion' between the EU and China, writes, writes Ding Wei.

Cultural exchange and cooperation is an important part of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. It plays an irreplaceable role in enhancing mutual understanding between people and in promoting the value of our relationship. At the 14th China-EU Summit in 2011, our leaders pointed out that cultural exchange is one of the three pillars of China- EU relations. The establishment of the China-EU high-level people-to-people dialogue mechanism and the success of 2012 China-EU year of intercultural dialogue have opened up a new chapter in bilateral cultural cooperation, and further deepened China's relations with the EU and its member states.

China and the EU have cooperated closely on cultural issues, and the mechanism for exchanges is maturing. The Chinese ministry of culture and the European commission directorate general for education have established the China- EU high-level people-to-people dialogue mechanism and the China-EU cultural policy dialogue mechanism, along with three joint statements. Minister Cai Wu of the Chinese ministry of culture and EU culture and education commissioner Androulla Vassiliou issued one such joint statement at the closing ceremony of the China-EU year of intercultural dialogue; this statement has served as the guideline for developing cultural relations since. Meanwhile, China and the EU have discussed ideological issues, cooperation on intelligence and on cultural heritage, the cultural innovation industry and field trips on contemporary art – the result of which are soon to be put into practice. We have also held four consecutive 'China-EU high-level cultural forums'.

"Cultural exchange is one of the three pillars of China-EU relations"

After years of development, mechanisms for cultural cooperation between China and the EU member states are also maturing. China has signed official cultural exchange action plans or memorandums of understanding with all EU member states. Recently, China has held joint 'Years of culture' and other major cultural events with member states such as France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain. In 2009, China was the guest of honour at the Europalia festival in Belgium. China has also attended and established long-term cooperative relations with other major European cultural festivals such as the Edinburgh international festival in the UK, the Avignon theatre festival in France and the Schleswig- Holstein music festival in Germany.

Moreover, long-term cooperative mechanisms have also been established between the Chinese Forbidden palace and the Louvre; between the Chinese national museum and three major German museums, as well as the Venice national palace museum; between the Chinese national library and the British library; and between the Chinese national theatre and the British national theatre. In addition, Chinese cultural centres have been set up in France, Germany, Malta, Spain and Denmark, with institutes such as the Alliance Française, the Goethe Institute and the Instituto Cervantes of Spain standing at the frontier of China-EU cultural exchange. The year 2015 will mark the 40th anniversary of China-EU relations. A wide range of cultural events in Europe will celebrate the date: the 'Danish cultural season', the 'Pure Finland – National image promotion series', the 'China-UK year of culture', and the Helsinki cultural festival in which China will be the guest of honour and the 'Chinese contemporary art – European tour'. All these programmes will add light and colour to the 40-year anniversary and strengthen the cultural pillar of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

The China-EU high-level people-to-people dialogue has sketched out a blue-print for developing China-EU cultural relations. Guided by this mechanism, I believe that China-EU cultural cooperation will further contribute to the strengthening of China-EU relations and enhancing popular mutual interest, understanding and opinion.

About the author

Ding Wei is China's vice minister of culture

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