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Uniting the two dragons

04 Chwefror 2008

Traditional dancing at the Confucius Institute Launch

China is an increasingly important market for Welsh business.

In 2005, Welsh exports to China stood at £178M, having quadrupled in just seven years. The country is now Wales’ third largest export market.

Any Welsh business wishing to trade in China, or any public sector body wishing to establish closer links, faces a number of challenges. These include language, an understanding of business protocol and a knowledge of Chinese culture and traditions. Confucious Institute Logo

The University’s new Confucius Institute aims to help Welsh organisations and individuals meet these challenges and to build stronger links between the two "dragon economies."

The University secured agreement last year with Hanban, the Chinese Language Council International, to establish the Cardiff Confucius Institute for the teaching of language and culture. Cardiff was specially selected by Hanban, which is looking to establish Confucius Institutes around the world.

The Institute is based at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, which is working on the project with one of China’s leading Universities, Xiamen University, based in Cardiff’s twin city. Professor Siyi Fu, Deputy Dean of the College of Foreign Languages and Cultures at Xiamen University, herself a former staff member of the China Studies Centre at Cardiff, has returned to Wales to act as Academic Director of the new Institute.

The Centre was formally launched today (Monday, February 4) by the Secretary of State for Wales, the Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP. Other guest speakers included First Secretary for the Chinese Embassy in the UK, Qi Pinwei and Cardiff City Council leader Rodney Berman. The Director of CBI Wales, David Rosser, spoke on the importance of China to Welsh business. University speakers included the Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Grant, Professor Fu, Institute Executive Director and Dean of the Centre for Lifelong Learning Dr Richard Evans, and Professor Roger Mansfield of Cardiff Business School and the Institute’s Board of Studies. The event, attended by leading Welsh business figures, also included a Chinese buffet and a performance of traditional music by Chinese students studying at Cardiff. Vice Chancellor at the Confucius Institute Launch

A full programme of courses, including Chinese language at all levels, Chinese culture and Chinese commercial protocol, launches this spring. They will be tailored for business, the public sector, University staff and students and members of the community who wish to know more about China.

Mr Murphy said he was delighted to be performing his first public engagement as Secretary of State at Cardiff University, which he described as "not only in British terms but in international terms, one of our finest universities."

Mr Murphy said: "Like China, Wales is a land of the dragon. Both Cardiff and Swansea have attracted significant Chinese communities over the years and there are already around 1,600 Chinese students studying in Welsh universities - including more than 500 here in Cardiff alone.

"Within 20 to 30 years, China is set to be the largest economy in the world. This remarkable growth should be celebrated as an opportunity and not a threat to nations like Wales. I have no doubt that the educational and business links forged by the Confucius Institute will help the blossoming relationship between Wales and China continue to grow and strengthen in the coming years for the benefit of both countries."

Mr Rosser said the Institute would be a valuable resource for Welsh businesses looking to build trade in China. He said: "I’m delighted to be here today to mark the opening of the Confucius Institute hosted by Cardiff University and to mark the appreciation of the Welsh business community of what I believe is a very significant development."

Vice-Chancellor Dr Grant said: "Cardiff University has a long-established record of successful partnerships with China. Our academics have for many years collaborated with Chinese colleagues on many topics of mutual interest such as health, and cancer in particular; major engineering projects; economic development; and infrastructure development such as city and regional planning. Through these and other activities we have a growing number of co-operative arrangements with leading Chinese universities. It is a tribute to the strength of these links that Cardiff has been selected to set up one of the UK’s Confucius Institutes. We look forward to the Cardiff Confucius Institute establishing itself as an essential source of knowledge and expertise for anyone in Wales seeking to build partnerships in China."