Li introduces cultural activities held by the China Cultural Center in Nigeria (CHEN JIAN)
In recent years, the Nigerian audiences have had a chance to better understand China through music. This has been made possible by the establishment of the China Cultural Center in Nigeria that marks a new achievement in enhancing cultural exchanges between the two countries.
Located in the capital Abuja, the center came to life recently on a night of Chinese and Nigerian symphonic music performed by the Beijing Symphony Orchestra.
The orchestra leader Liu Ke said that their affiliation with Nigeria dates back to 2008 when they were selected to play Nigeria's national anthem before the final football game between Nigeria and Argentina at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. He described Nigeria as a beautiful country, and its people warm, respectable and hospitable. He said the orchestra cherished the opportunity to perform before Nigerian audiences and hopes to write a new chapter in the annals of China-Africa friendship.
Established on March 2, 2012 and opened on September 9, 2013, the China Cultural Center in Nigeria is the second of its kind established in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is the 14th overseas cultural center established by the Chinese Government. According to Li Xuda, Cultural Counsellor at the Embassy of China in Nigeria, the establishment of the China Cultural Center, based on the agreement signed by both countries, marks a new achievement in enhancing cultural relations between China and Nigeria and builds a channel of cultural exchange for both sides.
On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the opening of the center, in late 2018, Li Xuda spoke to ChinAfrica reporter Xia Yuanyuan on the role the center plays in strengthening bilateral understanding and the achievements gained through cultural exchanges. An edited version of the interview follows:
ChinAfrica: What role does the center play in strengthening China-Nigeria cultural ties?
Li Xuda: One of the core responsibilities of the center is to present China to Nigerian people so that they can better understand China. This year  marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening up. We held several activities in the center to demonstrate China's achievements made in the past 40 years to local people. In addition, before the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was held in September, we organized preliminary activities to update the local people on the developments of FOCAC. We also held seminars and exhibitions on the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which was held in Beijing in 2017, to showcase the achievements that have been made over the years, especially in people-to-people exchange.
The center is also responsible for carrying out training courses in Chinese language and culture among other weekly programs. Every year, HSK Tests [Chinese Language Proficiency Test] is held at the center. On September 20, 2018, we held the Chinese Language Seminars in collaboration with the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos and the Confucius Institute at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. In addition, we provide wushu [martial arts] and fan dance training courses for anyone who is willing to learn.
Our center is also responsible for organizing cultural activities, such as performances, exhibitions and art festivals. Every year, we hold celebratory events to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Spring Festival, two of the most important festivals in China, to familiarize Nigerian people with Chinese traditions.
Coincidentally, China and Nigeria share the same date on which they both celebrate their National Days. This year , we held a photo exhibition to display China's achievements over the years in ecological environment protection, lifestyle, technology development, innovation and international exchange.
Providing information services has also been a key function of the center. To this effect, we have set up libraries to provide China-related information and data, and introduce Chinese culture and history as well as the status quo of modern social life in China.
At the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in 2015 in South Africa, the Chinese Government pledged to provide 30,000 government scholarships to African students until 2018. How many scholarships did Nigerian students receive?
Nigeria ranked top three in acquiring these scholarships. Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, and studying in China has become first option for many students in Nigeria. Apart from those who get Chinese government scholarships, many local students study in China at their own expense. In 2017, a total of 1,000 student visas were approved for Nigerians to study in China. Most Nigerian students studying in China are majoring in science and technology, oil exploration and infrastructure engineering.
Generally, Nigerians are very enthusiastic about learning Chinese as it has become easier for those who can speak fluent Chinese to find a good job in Nigeria with higher salaries.
This year, at the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China would provide Africa with 50,000 government scholarships. It's absolutely good news for us. This can help more Nigerian students who want to study in China.
What role does cultural exchange play in promoting China-Nigeria bilateral relations?
The friendship between the two countries has cemented the foundation of state-to-state relations and cultural exchange has been a highlight in our bilateral relations. It is one of our priorities as a center to constantly promote people-to-people exchange between China and Nigeria so as to enhance mutual understanding. Every year, we arrange and organize Nigerian artists to visit China and hold exhibitions to showcase their artistic work when they return to Nigeria. We believe that these frequent people-to-people exchanges could consolidate the friendship foundation between both countries.
Nigeria is home to Nollywood, one of the top three largest film producers in the world. In future, is there a possibility for the Chinese audience to watch Nollywood films in China's cinemas?
I am quite certain that this will happen. At the beginning of 2018, we held the first Chinese Carnival of Animation in Abuja in collaboration with StarTimes, a Chinese electronics and media company with presence in Africa. In future, with the deepening exchanges between China and Nigeria, Nigerian films are very likely to be viewed on the big screens in China.
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