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Minister Ma Attends APPG/AHRC Roundtable Discussion
2018/10/31

On October 29, 2018, Minister Ma Hui attended the Roundtable Discussion: Language Skills and Intercultural Understanding for UK Business Working with China, co-hosted by The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages and The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) at the House of Lords. There were about 20 panelists, including the Rt Hon Baroness Garden of Frognal PC, Vice-Chair of APPG on Modern Languages, Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair of AHRC, Caroline Wilson CMG, Europe Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sue Bishop, Director of Creative, Consumer, Food, Drink and Sports Economy at the Department for International Trade, Matthew Rous, Chief Executive of China-Britain Business Council, Professor Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London and representatives from British Council, HSBC, Grant Thornton UK LLP, the University of Nottingham and the University of Bristol.

Minister Ma said that over the past 40 years since China’s reform and opening up, China has become the second largest economy in the world and an upper middle-income country. At present, China is committed to deepening its reform and expanding the scope of opening up, enjoys sound prospects for economic development and offers huge market potential. China and the UK are facing important opportunities to expand their economic and trade cooperation.

Language is a carrier of culture, a window to knowledge, and a bond of friendship. Learning the Chinese language and culture is of great significance to helping enhance the friendship between the Chinese and British people, promoting the cultural exchanges and mutual learning between China and the west, and deepening cooperation in various fields including economy and trade between the two countries. The Minister hoped that the British government would attach more importance to Chinese language teaching and learning, encourage more British students to learn Chinese and study in China, and provide more opportunities for the Chinese graduates to learn about the country and culture by working or living in the UK for an extended period. He encouraged the UK government to support the Confucius Institute and Confucius Classroom, in particular, giving full play to the positive role of the Confucius Institute for Business London in practical business language learning and the understanding of Chinese culture. He expressed his hope for greater people-to-people and cultural exchanges and tourist cooperation between the two countries, and encouraged the research on modern China, leading to a comprehensive appreciation of China’s development and China’s contribution to the prosperity and stability of the world.

Ma highlighted the role of the Confucius Institute as a bridge for understanding and friendship between people of all countries. He noted that although originated in China, the initiative of the Confucius Institute belongs to the world. The allegations that the Institute “interferes with academic freedom” and “serves as an ideological tool of the Chinese government” are unfounded. British companies should strengthen cooperation with their Chinese partners on the basis of mutual respect and improve their language and intercultural skills.

The panelists said that China is vital to Britain’s future development, prosperity and international cooperation. However, the importance of Chinese language learning is not duly understood in the UK and the relevant measures fall short of the need for exploring the Chinese market and deepening the economic and trade cooperation between the UK and China. They suggested that the British government should increase input, expand the scale of Chinese language teaching, offer Chinese culture courses to sixthformers and ensure the success of the Mandarin Excellence Program. British students and young people should be encouraged to study in China, visit China or do exchange programmes, and Britain should resume the issuance of visas to Chinese students for their internship in the UK after graduation. There should also be enhanced research on China and greater support for the training of China researchers in the UK so as to provide comprehensive consultation for British businesses working with China.

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