Culture as a Common Language
By staff reporter HOU RUILI
ON February 1, the EU-China Year of Intercultural Dialogue kicked off in Brussels with performances of works by China's and Belgium's most celebrated choreographers. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker's dance group Rosas performed her 29-year-old minimalist classic, Rosas Danst Rosas, while Liu Qi's Guangdong Modern Dance Company performed his more recent creation, Beyond Calligraphy.
These were the first of an array of performances and events to be held as part of the Intercultural Dialogue, jointly announced by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso at the 13th China-EU Summit in October 2010. It is designed to escalate communication and collaboration between the nations that was built up in the 2011 EU-China Year of Youth.
The scope of the year's activities will cover everything from philosophy, arts and literature, to language, the media, youth exchanges and tourism, displaying the best of Chinese and European culture. On China's side, 15 ministries and commissions and a number of non-governmental organizations will participate, by sponsoring more than 150 events in all 27 EU member countries. Specific projects held in the EU will include the Chinese Culture Year in Germany, Chinese Language Year in France and Chinese contributions to celebrations for the London Olympic Games. At the same time, EU groups and artists will present a series of performances in China, including a grand gala marking the conclusion of the year's events.
The Intercultural Dialogue is expected to bring exchanges between EU and China in thought and culture to a whole new level in the coming months. A number of scheduled seminars and forums to facilitate such exchanges include the third session of the EU-China High-level Cultural Forum, a forum on British and Chinese culture, and a China-Germany 1+1 dialogue. Beyond the governmental level, the dialogue aims to facilitate understanding and cooperation between organizations and individual artists in China and Europe through collaborative performances, exhibitions and creative and research projects.
Building Trust Through Culture
In recent years, the EU has been among the regions with the largest presence of Chinese cultural activities. Many EU countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium, have held or plan to hold reciprocal cultural years with China, and Chinese troupes are often invited to local art festivals. According to Xiang Xiaowei, deputy director-general for external cultural relations at the Ministry of Culture, such cultural relations are a pivotal part of the partnership between China and the EU. With their rich cultures and long histories, the two sides envisage great potential in cultural exchange.
Huang Ping, director of the Research Center for World Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, for example, highly commends the Intercultural Dialogue, believing it opens a channel of communication between China and the EU in their pursuit for possible solutions to common challenges. In an age of globalization and informatization, he says, a narrow and inward-looking perspective is unequal to the swift and sweeping changes in today's world. There is a need for new attitudes towards international relations, and also updated management methods.
Intercultural dialogue has become a focal point of China-EU relations, which are in a critical period of change. The exchange is hence expected to have far-reaching effects. Huang Ping explained that although the discussions during the year will cover wide-ranging topics, talks will deal with specific issues, such as the role of museums and performance centers in cultural development, the management and training of cultural workers and intellectual property rights protection. He stressed that opinions raised in discussions may affect the decisions of policymakers in both China and EU countries.
It must be acknowledged that the two cultures have clear differences, and that common ground and mutual trust can only be established through equal and affirmative communication and collaboration. Such communication will be nurtured during the China-EU Year of Intercultural Dialogue, building a positive China-EU relationship and bringing lasting benefits to the world at large.