Confucius institutes enhance China-Africa ties

A South African academic on Thursday said the Confucius Institutes help enhance China-Africa relations.

"The Confucius Institutes are meant to make people understand evolving China and for the Chinese to understand Africa," said David Monyae, co-director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Johannesburg while addressing members of the diplomatic corps, government officials and academics in Pretoria.

He said the institutes are also meant to make people understand the philosophy of Confucius and compare it with ubuntu, an ethical concept of southern African origin, for similarities and differences.

The academic said the Confucius institutes also provide access to Chinese funding and achieve political and economic growth for African countries.

He stated that the relationship between China and Africa goes beyond the signing of trade deals and high political elite meetings.

Monyae said China and Africa have a long lasting friendship dating back to ancient times and the two sides nurtured this relationship even when China was poor.

"We share a rich background of solidarity with China. We were both humiliated by the West in terms of colonialism and subjugation. They (the Chinese) supported the liberation struggle movements in Africa with training and supplying ammunition in South Africa and Zimbabwe among others," he said.

Monyae stated that many Chinese died while helping Africans in the construction of Tanzania-Zambia Railway in the 1970s. The link extends more than 1,800 km from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia, and has become a symbol of traditional China-Africa friendship.

He said Confucius Institutes tell the Chinese story not from the Western lenses but gives direct contact with the Chinese, removing misconceptions about China.

China also helps Africa address illegal poaching, the academic said.

"Africa can count on China for fair trade, for African voices to be heard in the United Nations Security Council," he said.

Confucius Institutes, he said, also give Chinese academics access to African universities and understand African cultures.

One of the resolutions adopted at the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) last year is to strengthen people to people relations, Monyae said.

He expressed belief that Confucius Institutes will enhance such relations.

For trade deals to be done, there have to be understanding, Monyae said.

"In every relationship there are differences. When tempers rise in trade misunderstanding, the understanding brought by these Confucius Institutes comes to the fore," he noted.

For the people to people relationship to be improved between China and Africa, there has to be seminars as well as cultural exchanges, he said.

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