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Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the Launch of Confucius Classroom at Mid Yell Junior High School, Shetland Islands: Wave Your Magic Wand to Contribute a New Chapter to China-UK "Golden Era"
Mid Yell Junior High School, 1 May 2018

Mr. Mark Lawson,

Mr. Malcolm Bell,

Ms. Fhiona Mackay,

Teachers and Students,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends:

Good morning!

It is a real delight to come to the beautiful island of Yell in this blossoming season of Spring for the launch of the Confucius Classroom at Mid Yell Junior High School. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy, let me begin by extending my warmest congratulations!

I also wish to thank the teachers from the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools and Mid Yell Junior High School for your hard work and vigorous contribution!

An ancient Chinese sage said, "For he who is unstoppably determined, there is no place too far to reach, no mountain too high to climb and no sea too vast to cross." This line explains how perseverance is the only path to success.

Seven years ago, I had the honour to join His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, to unveil the Confucius Classroom of Llandovery College in the southwest of Britain. Today, I have come to Yell to unveil the Confucius Classroom in the farthest and northernmost part of Scotland and Britain.

From the south to the north, I can see the strong and growing enthusiasm in the British students for learning the Chinese language. That is why the distance between China and the UK, the barriers of mountains and seas, can not stop the Chinese language from reaching every corner of Britain, including Yell!

And I think I have come at a good time. This is the season for flowers to bloom and for trees to grow. It is also a good time for Chinese language education in Britain, for the Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms, to grow.

Eight years ago when I took the office of Chinese Ambassador to the UK, there were only 11 Confucius Institutes across Britain. Today, there are 29.

Eight years ago there were 47 Confucius Classrooms. Today, there are 156.

In 2017 alone, these Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms enrolled 160,000 students, hosted 4,074 cultural events and drew over one million visitors and participants.

Across the world, the numbers are also encouraging. As of the end of last year, there were 525 Confucius Institutes and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms in 146 countries and regions. The total number of students was 9.16 million. That was the size of the population of an average country in Europe.

You may wonder:

  • Why are so many people falling in love with the Chinese language?
  • Why are the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms so popular in Britain?

My answer is this: the Chinese language has the power of Harry Potter's magic wand.

Wave this magic wand, and you will have the power to appreciate the charm of Chinese culture.

Language is the basic element of culture. If you do not speak Chinese, you can still visit the giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang at the Edinburgh Zoo; you can also fly to China, visit the Great Wall and enjoy Chinese food.

But you will not know that "Xiong Mao", the Chinese word for giant panda, consists of two different animals; neither will you fully understand why the Great Wall has a unique place in China's time-honored history and culture.

The Chinese language gives you the key to unlock the rich heritage of the Chinese civilization, to savour the fascinating poems of the Tang and Song dynasties, and to decipher the profound philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism.

I learnt that Jack Louis Irvine, a graduate from Mid Yell Junior High School, has won a scholarship to study in Tianjin Normal University for a year. I saw him sitting among you. Jack: May I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt congratulations to you. I wish you a fruitful year in China.

The magic wand of the Chinese language will also unveil before your eyes the opportunities that China has to offer.

China is the world's second largest economy, largest industrial producer, largest trader in goods, and largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. Moreover, with its large population of 1.4 billion and a rapidly growing middle class, China is the world's largest and most promising market.

Over the past four decades, China has undergone reforms and opening up. These policies have enabled China's economy to grow at around 9.5% every year, and its foreign trade to grow at 14.5%. In recent years, China's contribution to global growth has been around 30%.

China's strong growth is benefiting the UK, because the UK is the second largest trading partner of China in the EU, and China is the third largest trading partner of the UK.

Moreover, more than 500 Chinese companies have set up businesses here in Britain. They need a large number of bilingual employees. The top three Chinese companies in the UK have employed more than 2,000 people locally. That is over 80% of their total employees here in Britain.

As more and more Chinese investments come into the UK, I have no doubt the language capability you will acquire will become a bonus in your resume and boost your future career opportunities.

I also hope you will use the magic wand of the Chinese language to see the complete picture of a real China and become an envoy for China-UK friendship.

Understanding is the precondition for trust, which in turn lays the foundation for cooperation. The Chinese language is a key to understanding China.

Western media alone will not show you the complete picture of China. Worse still, some of their biases can be misleading. But if you can read and speak Chinese, you will be able to hear directly from the Chinese people and learn directly about the "China's story". You will be more than just a tourist when you visit China and see the country's development with your own eyes.

In a word, mastering the Chinese language will open your ears and eyes to the real China. And you will be better eqipped to make greater contribution to closer friendship and cooperation between our two countries.

Hogwarts is not the only "school for witchcraft and wizardry" in Scotland. There are also the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, including yours in Mid Yell Junior High School. Here you will learn how to wave the magic wand of the Chinese language.

Confucius, the eponym of the classroom we are opening today, was a great philosopher and teacher of ancient China. His great work, The Analects of Confucius, begins with this line, "Isn't it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?"

To add to the pleasure of learning the Chinese language, I have brought with me 100 books about China and Chinese language. They are your text books on how to wave the magic wand, how to find the "golden key" to understanding China, and how to build the "bridge of friendship" between China and the UK.

In conclusion, I wish you will study well and make progress everyday. I hope this will get you ready for building closer China-UK friendship and contributing your own new chapter to the China-UK "Golden Era"!

Thank you!

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