The Confucius Institute
The South African Government has entered into the BRICS agreement which has resulted in a number of commerce, trade, industry, science, academic, political and social agreements and exchanges. China has become an important partner to South Africa, and as a result it has become important for many South Africans, from different spheres, to learn to speak, read and write Mandarin. The UJ Confucius Institute will be offering Mandarin on different proficiency levels.
Contact with Chinese colleagues, however, extends beyond language, and an understanding of Chinese culture is essential. The UJ Confucius Institute will also be offering a number of cultural courses and events to enhance a better understanding of Chinese culture.
Heads of Institute
A native of Jingzhou City, Hubei Province, Prof Peng succeeds Prof Yin Fulin, who is also a Professor and former Dean in Nanjing Tech University (NTU). Prof Peng has a background in law and served in various capacities, including lecturing and researching in conflict of laws between Hong Kong and the mainland People’s Republic of China, as well as involved with civil procedure law.
Prof Peng’s term is set to last until early 2020, and she expressed that she is looking forward to working with the UJ stakeholders to advance the UJCI and the university in general. Prof Peng will be working closely with Dr David Monyae her South African counterpart.
The UJCI, which formally began operation in 2016, is mandated to teach Mandarin to all staff, students and members of the community interested in learning it, as well as facilitating scholarships and opportunities to travel to China for interested individuals.
The institute also periodically carries out festivals to mark important Chinese holidays. This is in line with its promotion of Chinese language and culture, a mandate carried out by all Confucius Institutes in the country, of which only four exists, and UJCI is the youngest. The UJCI also hosts research seminars and public dialogues on political and economic matters to do with Africa-China relations as well as BRICS.
The flagship institute has recently launched two knowledge products; the UJCI Africa-China Occasional Paper Series and Policy Brief Series to be found here.
Africa, China – together, investing in a better future for all
The philosophy of Confucius emphasises personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values are shared by both the University of Johannesburg and Nanjing University, located in Nanjing, China, and one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning in China. It is also this University that has an agreement in place with UJ to be the collaborative partner for the UJ’s Confucius Institute – one of only five such institutes in SA.
It is through this newly formed collaboration that research, interaction between students and staff, exchange programmes and learning about each other’s cultures and languages, are now realised.
China has moved from one of the poorest countries in the world to the second largest economy globally in a very short period of time of about 30 years. The Chinese economy remains the major driver of global growth for the foreseeable future.
What if we could learn from China? What if we could mimic their astounding success of growth right here on the African continent? What if South Africa can, just like China, move from being a poor country to one of the largest economies globally? What if we could advance our interest as Africans through our relationship with China? What if we could effectively and with insight, negotiate with Chinese at business, government and institutional level?
Well we can. It starts with collaborations between universities and institutes such as the Confucius Institute. This is to become a reality. China has achieved the impossible. So why can’t we?
What if we could have a much deeper understanding of each other’s cultures – not through the eyes and ears of third-party sources, but from authentic narratives provided first hand? Chinese Confucianism and the African concept of Ubuntu are two strains of ethical philosophy that share a substantial number of values. What if we could build on our shared values for the advancement of both China and Africa?
What if we could read, speak and understand Mandarin? With more than 955 million speakers, the language claims the top spot as the world’s most common language and one that more than often requires professional translation services. What if we can be the translators, the collaborators and the change agents between Africa and the 4.4 percent of the world’s population who are native speakers of Mandarin?
Thirty years ago, no one in the world imagined that China would be able to grow its GDP at an average of 10% per year, becoming the second largest economy in the world in 2010 and expected to surpass the American economy by 2025. Nobody would believe that China has not only become the “World’s Factory,” but also sent their astronauts into space.
What if we could join China in their lift-off as the new space superpower? Could we partner with them in exploring outer space, together – sharing research, knowledge, skills, as well as dreams of far, far away inhabitable galaxies? The value of these collaborations extends way beyond the science. Although the Chinese are the newcomers in space science, and don’t have much experience, South Africa is also an eager novice – ready to learn and to catch up with the world. Space belongs to no man, but space science is the responsibility of all humans on earth.
China – from a nation that was once colonised, risen to become a superpower. Colonisation and slavery robbed Africa and took away its pride, dignity, identity and self-belief. China has taught us that a nation can go through such a dehumanising experience and still regain what was lost and rise again. Since 1978, China has lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty, creating one of the largest economic miracles in the later 20th century. China’s success and its unprecedented poverty reduction is a source of inspiration for Africa. As the poorest continent, we face many challenges. What if we could rise as the next super power?
We can. And we will.
Just like China, South Africa has ambitious, hardworking people, caring for their families and relentlessly pursuing good education and success. What if we continue to place an emphasis on good solid education? What if Universities like UJ and institutions such as the Confucius Institute continue to drive research, science, technology through solid educational systems? What if our people can become a major driving force in the world’s high tech engineering industries? What if we could embrace the Confucian ethic of creating dedicated, motivated, responsible and educated individuals with an enhanced sense of commitment, organisational identity and loyalty to institutions that promote progress?
The world looks at our continent for its mineral resources. We have all the resources – with the greatest of them all being our people and our youth who will be responsible for a prosperous South Africa, and continent. What if we could continue to invest in our youth, increase both productivity and resilience to global trends?
What if we decide today to incorporate the principles behind China’s impressive growth into the strategies of all African nations? The African continent might be the poorest continent, but it is only a matter of time before this sleeping giant awakes to become the greatest and richest continent on earth. It is merely a question of when…
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