New center reaches out to Australia

Updated: 2014-11-20 07:00

By Wang Kaihao (China Daily)

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Xi attends ceremony to mark the opening of cultural institute

China has a new cultural outpost overseas following the official opening on Monday of a center devoted to promoting the country's heritage and the arts in Sydney, Australia.

President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott attended a ceremony held in the capital, Canberra, to mark the opening.

The China Cultural Center began trial operations in May. It has since hosted 30 events, including exhibitions, performances and lectures, said Zhao Li, its director.

There are 18 other China Cultural Centers around the world, and the Sydney one fills a gap as it is the first to open in Oceania. The centers, guided by cultural departments operating under the State Council and embassies, were set up to promote China and deepen its friendship with other countries.

The first center was built in Mauritius in 1988, and the latest one has five Chinese staff members plus a number of local employees.

"Our role as the official cultural institution overseas is crucial," said Zhao. "We have had to provide high-quality events from the beginning to establish a close relationship with the local community and build up a good reputation."

She said an exhibition of modern art and another featuring antiques were among the most popular events so far.

"We also held some lectures on traditional Chinese folk art in local schools, and these generated positive feedback," Zhao said.

"One of the most touching moments was when a girl showed me a Chinese paper cut she had just made, and said she would take Chinese classes in the next semester."

Promoting the language is an important part of the center's work. Zhao said she is planning to hold a meeting with school principals to encourage them to teach Chinese from the primary level onward.

"This move will not only promote Chinese culture, it will also offer young people employment opportunities as more and more Australians now realize the importance of the Chinese market."

Zhao said people in Sydney are familiar with Chinese culture. For example, a parade held during Spring Festival has become a popular annual event in the city.

However, most of these activities are organized by the local Chinese community for its members, rather than for other sections of the population.