Clear Traces of Cultural Exchanges
Where there are people, there are cultures. So, when people of different cultural backgrounds meet, cultural exchanges and integration may occur constantly. And it is true for China and the ASEAN countries.
When we trace the footprints of China-ASEAN exchanges in history, it is easy to find that personnel exchanges in each period have made clear the traces of cultural exchanges between the two sides.
In the Western Han Dynasty after the Maritime Silk Road which linked China’s coastal areas with Southeast Asia and South Asia was opened, trade caravans from China and Southeast Asia flooded the route, with cultures further integrated. In the Ming Dynasty, each voyage taken by Zheng He to Southeast Asia had helped the Chinese cultures to take root there. The Southeast Asia fervor in the modern times has once again promoted the Chinese cultures to spread in Southeast Asia. The Baba Nyonya in Malaysia, for instance, is a unique culture formed in these cultural exchanges.
Cultural exchanges between China and ASEAN continue as personnel exchanges proceed. Especially after the establishment of China- ASEAN strategic partnership, bilateral cooperation goes in depth and breadth, while personnel exchanges become unprecedentedly frequent. By the end of 2012, mutual visits between China and ASEAN exceeded 15 million, which had greatly promoted the exchanges and cooperation in cultural fields. The traces of bilateral cultural exchanges have become more and more clear and steadfast, with mutual understanding and respect on each other’s cultures increase continuously.
New Journey for Friendly Relations
Starting from 2003, China, together with France, the US, Italy, Portugal and Japan, and other countries, has held over 200 Chinese cultural festivals and art festivals. These activities are rich both in content and form. In October, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to designate 2014 as the China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year in his speech at the Indonesian Parliament, which won positive response from the ASEAN countries.
Centering on the “cultural exchange year”, China and ASEAN have carried out exchanges and cooperation in a brand-new way. This is the first time ever since the two sides started dialogue relations in 1991. It shows the courage and determination of China and other ASEAN countries in mutual exchange and learning, as well as common development in the cultural fields after they have made great breakthroughs in bilateral economic and trade cooperation.
A great variety of cultural exchange activities will be held by China and the ASEAN countries throughout 2014. For the Chinese side, there are altogether 150 programs to be held in the China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year, including conference, performance, exhibition, personnel training and exchange, news, film and television, publishing, sports, tourism, religion and youth exchange, as well as special activities focusing on the Maritime Silk Road, overseas Chinese culture center, overseas “Happy Chinese New Year” and the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China- Malaysia diplomatic relations.
Positive Remarks by ASEAN Countries
2014 China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year is welcomed by ASEAN countries. Thai Deputy Culture Minister said, the spread of cultures both in China and ASEAN is deserved to be advocated. And an officer from Indonesian Ministry of National Education and Culture stated, they attach great importance to the cultural exchanges between China and Indonesia, and will strengthen the promotion of Indonesian culture and art in China in the future.
Under the consensus and promotion of China and ASEAN countries, cultural exchanges have been started in different countries. According to Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Laos will send two or three large delegations to China for cultural and art exchanges. In addition, exchange activities involving tourism and media among China, Laos and ASEAN will continue to be extended in and after 2014. Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam claimed, Vietnam also held various activities to celebrate the 2014 China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year.
Besides state-level political trust and economic and trade cooperation, cultural exchange and cooperation also serves as an important part to promote the relations among countries. The appreciation and understanding on a nation or a culture will automatically deepen the friendship and mutual trust. In this regard, Datuk Dr. Ong Hong Peng, Secretary General of Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture said, through cultural exchanges, ASEAN and China will deepen mutual understanding and mutual trust, strengthen friendly relations between the peoples of two sides and help facilitate bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy and security and so on.
Unity in Diversity
The similar culture tastes and communication mode of mutual learning provide strong basis for “unity in diversity” of China-ASEAN cultural exchange. Whereas, this does not mean that both sides should abandon the distinctive cultures of their own. As Felipe M. de Leon, Jr., Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines said, each culture is unique and needs to be known by every one of us. At the same time, all cultural heritages are precious treasure owned by the whole mankind. We share common cultural heritage, origin, features as well as common pursuit for better life. All these in common serve as the solid foundation for strengthening the friendship among the peoples of different countries.
China and ASEAN countries have a long history of cultural exchange. They are linked by rivers and mountains, and live alongside each other like members of the same family. The geographical proximity breeds them similar lifestyles and culture tastes. China has exerted great influences on Southeast Asia in history. Also, the splendid culture of Southeast Asia adds a colorful page to the long culture scroll of China.
Along the way, China and ASEAN will continue to enhance the cultural exchange and cooperation. On the one hand, two sides will enrich and develop their own culture through communication and mutual learning; on the other hand, through cultural exchange, both sides will strengthen the mutual understanding and trust, expand bilateral cooperation and achieve common development. Via a variety of exchange activities during the 2014 China-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year, the culture seed starts to germinate between two sides and the irreplaceable culture power is formed to increase the political mutual trust, facilitate economic ties and promote culture mutual learning etc.
China-ASEAN cultural exchange is a kaleidoscope. Through this twisting kaleidoscope, we can see our long and profound past, steadfast present and colorful future.