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2021Chinese New Year Reception for UK Education Partners and CSSAUK Chinese New Year Gala Held On-line
2021/02/03

On 2 February, 2021 Chinese New Year Reception for UK Education Partners and CSSAUK Chinese New Year Gala were held on-line. Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Chen Wen attended the event and delivered a speech. Peter Drummond, Director of the Department of Education Joint International Unit, Kate Ewart-Biggs OBE, Interim Chief Executive of British Council, and Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester also spoke respectively. Around 500 guests joined the celebration including more than 100 heads and representatives of over 50 British universities, and representatives of Chinese students and scholars in the UK. Nearly 16,000 audiences around the world watched the gala via various streaming platforms, with a total number of clicks over 166,000.

Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Chen began her speech by extending Chinese New Year greetings to friends from the British education community and to Chinese students and scholars in the UK. She noted that the Chinese and British education communities have come together and pulled in the same direction to prevail over the difficulties despite the spread of Covid-19 around the world in 2020 which dealt a severe blow to the global education system. “You have tried your best to safeguard the health and safety of Chinese students, adapt to the new normal of the pandemic and continue advancing the exchanges and cooperation between our two countries in creative ways. These efforts have yielded positive results,” said Chen.

First, both sides have put the interest of students at the centre of the work without prejudice. President Xi Jinping had several telephone conversations with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during which they agreed on safeguarding the safety, health and legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese people, especially students in the UK. UK Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan sent an open letter to international students in the UK, giving reassurance to all international students that the government will do its best to safeguard their safety and health, and minimize disruptions to their studies.

Second, both sides have stood united, worked together and supported each other. The Chinese and British education sectors did all they can to ensure that all international students, including Chinese students, can continue their studies.

Third, the Chinese and British peoples have felt for each other and extended a helping hand when one was most needed. Facing the challenges of the pandemic, education communities of both countries support each other by initiating donations of cash and supplies, joining hands to overcome difficulties.

At the new historical stage of 2021 that China-UK educational cooperation will embrace more opportunities, Chen expressed her hopes that the two sides will adhere to the principles of mutual respect, mutual trust, openness and inclusiveness. In 2020, the Chinese government issued a policy paper, outlining China’s plan to accelerate and expand the opening up of the education sector and advance international exchanges in education in wider areas, at multiple levels and with greater initiative. The education communities of China and the UK should respect each other, treat each other as equals, and express clear-cut opposition to actions of politicizing normal cooperation and academic exchanges.

“The Chinese government will continue providing encouragement and support for Chinese students and scholars to study abroad, including in the UK, and it is our hope that the UK will continue providing good conditions and atmosphere for exchanges and cooperation with China,” Chen noted.

She hoped that the two sides will deepen cooperation and achieve win-win results. Education exchanges and cooperation as an important part of the overall cooperation between China and the UK have yielded fruitful results and will enjoy promising prospects. At the moment, there are 220,000 Chinese students in the UK, forming the largest international student community in British universities. May such cooperation be continued to contribute to the development and prosperity of both countries, she said.

Chargé d'Affaires a.i. Chen also extended her greetings to the Chinese students in the UK. “It is my hope that you will keep in mind your aspiration and mission, and make full use of this invaluable opportunity of studying here in the UK to foster an international perspective, spread friendly messages and sow the seeds of cooperation, so as to make your contribution to realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and deepening China-UK friendship and cooperation,” said Chen in closing.

Director Drummond said, China-UK educational exchanges and cooperation have been broadened from original language learning and higher education sectors to all education sectors at all levels over the past decade, producing tremendous results. The Mandarin Excellence Programme in the UK covering nearly 7,000 students has made great progress in improving fluency in Mandarin. The exchanges between teachers from both sides about mathematics teaching have developed into a wide-ranging program with transformative results in all UK primary schools. The British side will give high priority to protecting the health and safety of Chinese students in the UK and offer assistance in their study. The British side will also work together with all sectors including the Chinese Embassy in the UK to deepen educational exchanges with China, so as to contribute to the China-UK friendship and the development of China-UK relationship.

Vice-Chancellor Rothwell said, even though the pandemic continues to disrupt global movement of people, China and the UK have maintained a strong partnership and developed new and innovative ways to connect, which is vital to the relationship between the two countries. Take University of Manchester for example, the pandemic scientists and medical researchers from both sides have been in constant contact sharing knowledge and making remarkable results. They will continue to collaborate in climate change, rises in global temperature, and scientific research and innovation. “We've also worked closely with the Chinese Embassy in London, with the consulates, and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China to arrange special flights to ensure that students are able to fly into the UK in a COVID-secure way,” she added. On behalf of all universities in the UK, Rothwell welcomes more Chinese students to the UK for studies.

Looking back on some very successful collaborations between the UK and China, Interim Chief Executive Ewart-Biggs said, one excellent example is #ConnectedByCreativity, an online festival for cultural exchanges between the two countries launched last year. Over 600,000 UK alumni are living and working in China today, and the UK is currently a top study destination for Chinese students. The Mandarin Excellence Programme has given thousands of state school pupils in England the skill of Mandarin fluency. Through these cultural and educational collaborations, young generations of both China and the UK create mutual understanding and respect, and become double ambassadors of their own country and for the host country when they return home and share their experience of study and friendship. She said the ox is a strong animal, but two oxen are even better. In the coming year, there are many tasks that require great strength and perseverance. She hoped that both China and the UK, like two oxen, will accomplish them successfully.

The reception was followed by the 2021 Chinese New Year Gala hosted by CSSAUK. With London as the main venue and Beijing as the sub venue, the online Gala linked the two cities over time and space with a brand-new format. Themed “Hearts Together, Blossoming Future” and divided into four chapters entitled Courage, Challenges, Collaboration and Commitment, the Gala brought to the audience a visual and acoustic feast.

The production and broadcast of this year’s Gala were innovative and adapted to lock-down requirements. It made special dedication to the people who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic and expressed the determination to overcome difficulties and the hope for a better future.

Before the Gala started, President of CSSAUK Zhang Feng gave a speech, in which he sent Chinese New Year greetings to all the Chinese students, Chinese communities and British friends in the UK, and expressed his thanks to the British educational departments, universities, and all walks of life for their continuous support and concern for Chinese students. He said, in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese students in the UK, remaining true to their original aspiration and founding mission, have played their part in fighting the virus. By organizing activities to overcome difficulties caused by the pandemic and communicating online, they have brought their hearts closer to each other and become stronger through challenges. The Chinese students have also made active effort to build the bridge of friendship between China and the UK, highlighting that integration is always the common theme.

The four presenters in London and Beijing extended their Chinese New Year greetings to all the audiences at the event. The classic and soothing song Jasmin Flower opened the Gala. Classic dancing Paper Fan Scholar and Eventually, the originally-created song brought by Tu Yijina from the University of Oxford, along with sand painting performance show the Chinese students’ unwavering original aspiration, their determination to chase their dreams, and their youthful vigor. Ballet performance Flying Against the Wind by the National Ballet of China, Chamber music and song Suddenly I Miss You and Miss You 3000, and creative dance Together tell not only the Chinese students’ longing for their families and motherland, but also their solidarity in fighting the pandemic and faith in chasing after the sun and withstanding the harsh winter. And Saying Good-bye to Cambridge Again by the Choir of King’s College of the University of Cambridge, Mongolian dance Erguna River by Minzu University of China, and song and dance Our Time Will Come by students from Tsinghua University and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama emphasize that the world is a harmonious whole when different cultures are appreciated for their respective beauty and contribute to the beauty of the world.

                   

The Gala culminated in a street dance and a chorus by student representatives from Chinese and British universities and ended with a song Forever with You. The repeated lyrics of the song “don’t give up on each one” expressed the best wishes from the bottom of everyone at the Gala: May life be peaceful and the world be safe!

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