A Confucius Institute, the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, was officially launched at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, today (February 13).
A plaque was also presented to Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping, who is in the island on a four-day official visit.
The Institute is a non-profit public institute, which seeks to promote Chinese language and culture, and supports local Chinese teaching internationally, through affiliated Confucius Institutes. It is headquartered in Beijing, under the Office of Chinese Language Council International.
Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI, Professor Gordon Shirley, welcomed the Institute, noting that it is a joint-commitment that serves to underline the enduring close relationship between Jamaica and China.
Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping (left), is greeted warmly by Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Professor Nigel Harris, following the presentation of the plaque for the Confucius Institute, which was launched at the UWI, Mona Campus, today (February 13). The Institute is the first to be established in the English-speaking Caribbean. Vice President Xi’s official visit to the island ends tomorrow (February 14).
“As the premier learning institute in Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean, the UWI welcomes the opportunity to facilitate this exchange of knowledge. The UWI prides itself on its role in bringing together people of various socio-cultural, economic and political backgrounds, to foster intellectual and cultural exchange and disseminate new knowledge,” he said.
He noted that over the past 36 years, the relationship of mutual respect and friendship between China and Jamaica has “grown and served both countries’ strategic interests.”
“China has ranked among Jamaica’s top five largest trading partners, and Jamaica remains China’s largest trading partner in the English-speaking Caribbean, in the areas of business, academia and philanthropy,” professor Shirley reminded.
Given this strong history of co-operation and friendship between both countries, the establishment of the Confucius Institute in Jamaica is vital, he said.
He explained that the institute would support the development of Chinese language education in Jamaica and the region. “Through its programme of cultural exchanges, teachings, research, and the staging of cultural and educational exhibitions, seminars and symposiums, the Institute will attract increased numbers of students, both locally and internationally, including students from China, to the Mona Campus, simultaneously increasing and deepening our understanding and appreciation of the culture of the people of China,” the Principal argued.
In his response, Vice President Xi said the Institute “will not only meet the need of the people in the Caribbean region to learn Chinese language and to know Chinese culture, but will also become an open bridge for mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and the Caribbean people.”
He pointed out that relations between states are built upon the friendship of its people, informing that in 1972 China established diplomatic relations with Jamaica and Guyana, bringing the relations between China and the Caribbean into a new phase of comprehensive development.
“Now every year, China provides dozens of Government scholarships to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries and sends cultural groups, volunteers, and Chinese language teachers to Caribbean countries,” he said.
Mr. Xi also mentioned the impressive performance of Jamaica’s athletes at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Vice President said that with the increasing people to people and cultural exchanges between the two sides, the friendship between China and the Caribbean would be more fruitful. He wished the Confucius Institute every success.
Also participating in the ceremony were: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh; Minister of Education, Andrew Holness; Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs