China kicked off its high-level Belt and Road (B&R) Forum for International Cooperation on May 14 in Beijing.
The main venue, China National Convention Center, also hosted a series of themed parallel meetings, aimed at strengthening people-to-people connectivity and country-to-country exchange along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
During the event, over 400 attendees – comprised of international groups and senior government officials from different countries along the route – listened to President Xi Jinping's keynote remarks about the strategic initiative.
"These four years have seen deepened policy connectivity, enhanced infrastructure connectivity, increased trade connectivity, expanded financial connectivity and strengthened people-to-people connectivity," Xi said.
Major attendees included World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan; Zhang Haidi, president of Rehabilitation International and chairperson of the China Disabled Persons' Federation; and, Mezencev, member of the Russia Federation Council (RFC) and chairperson of Russia-China Friendship Association (RCFA).
"People-to-people connectivity is fundamental and long-standing," said Song Tao, director of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Liaison Department.
"Under the guidance of the Silk Road spirit, multiple sides should insist on people-oriented principles; deepen mutual understanding of civilization; and, promote exchanges," he added.
China's Ministry of Education pledged to promote student exchange with UNESCO, Russia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Cyprus, and Bosnia and Herzegovinia, especially in the fields of language teaching and mutual certification of academic degrees.
China's Ministry of Science and Technology will work with Mongolia, Egypt, Hungary and other countries in strengthening exchange between young scientists and encouraging joint research and development.
China's Ministry of Culture presented official reports showing the many achievements already made along the route with counterparts in Lebanon and Tunisia.
Meanwhile, China's National Health and Family Planning Commission exchanged cooperative agreement texts with the WHO and the Czech Republic's Ministry of Health.
China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and TV took part in discussions with officials from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and announced plans to build a special B&R news network.
The State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine pledged to promote the B&R initiative in the medical field.
People's Voices and Multiple Initiatives
Different civilizations have exerted mutual influence on each other, pointed out Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO.
She recalled that the speech by Xi which impressed her greatly was given at the UNESCO's headquarters in 2014.
At that time, Xi highlighted the issues of mutual respect and harmonious co-existence among countries. The B&R Initiative serves as such a channel for strengthening trust and understanding, remarked commentators.
A Pakistan official said: "People-to-people connectivity is a touching theme that has witnessed many moving stories featuring friendship between China and Pakistan."
"I really appreciate the initiative, which is a vision for the future and across the globe," the official added.
Thanks to Chinese companies, a citizen from Myanmar named Wu Tongtong said he could now run a transport company delivering goods between the two countries.
"Both of my children were born in local Myanmar-based Chinese hospitals and I deeply believe our life will be getting better and better under the new initiative," Wu said.
An African voice-dubbing performer was also present at the event. He said Africans have a growing interest for Chinese culture. With the help of Chinese companies, the television signal fees in Tanzania has fallen from U.S.$ 50 to the current U.S.$ 3 per month.
He has completed voice-over work for over 20 Chinese TV shows such as Journey to the West and The Best Time with My Wife.
Through an educational program supported by China's tech giant Huawei, five overseas students from Uzbekistan reported learning cutting-edge knowledge on their visit to Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province.
Hainan Airlines Making 'Bright' Journey Connect People's Minds
A retired Cambodian teacher named Zhu Xie, 73, expressed her sincere thanks to a group of Chinese doctors who cured her eye cataracts earlier this year.
"I cannot imagine what my life would be like with my meager retirement fees and blurred vision. Nowadays, my eyesight is recovering. Its as if I have seen a new world," Xie said.
This doctors' volunteer group was organized by China's Hainan Airlines, and was supported by the government in south China's Hainan Province.
The group planned to fly to the Southeast Asian country five times between 2016 and 2018, and progressively carry out surgeries on over 1,000 cataract patients.
This Chinese doctors' group also visited Mozambique. When they left, over 4,000 locals came to see them off for gratitude, one doctor recalled.
Sowing 'Future Seeds' Globally
"Thanks to Huawei, we have experienced both high-end technology and profound Chinese culture. I feel very excited," said a student from Bulgaria who has benefited from the Chinese tech giant's "Future Seeds" program along with another nine students.
At the invitation of Huawei, those students will visit China for relevant learning and training sessions, which has marked the company's third sponsorship for Bulgarian students.
China's "Belt and Road Initiative" has highlighted not only economic exchanges, but many mutual learning events in the fields of technology and education.
As an international leader in terms of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Huawei is constantly devoted in helping overseas countries fostering local ICT talents, promoting local ICT industry development, and encouraging countries and regions to play an active role in creating digitalized communities.
This "Future Seeds" program, which is by far the largest scale of long-term investment the company has offered, is one of the Huawei's many flagship initiatives in promoting its social responsibilities.
In 2008, Huawei launched the initiative in Thailand, through which it selected college students and later sponsored them to learn in China.
Also, this initiative enabled local young talents to obtain ICT-based specific knowledge and relevant experience about cross-cultural enterprise management.
So far, the scheme has benefited over 1,000 students from Thailand.
By the end of December 31, 2016, the "Future Seeds" Program had been expanded among 96 countries and regions across the globally five continents.
It has benefited around 30,000 students from more than 280 universities worldwide.
Nearly 2,700 students have visited the headquarters of Huawei in Shenzhen, China.
In 2017, Huawei planned to launch a scheme that will invite students from 40 overseas countries to visit China, which will further benefit more and more students along the route of the Belt and Road Initiative.
This program will enable foreign students to have an understanding of the technology and culture in China.
In early April, 40 students from Myanmar Yangon Computer University and Danlin University of Science and Technology became the first batch of visitors in the Huawei program.
"I am delighted to be involved in this 'Future Seeds' program," said a student named Miao Mengji from Yangon Computer University.
"I have made new friends and learned about specific knowledge in my major through this Chinese culture tour," Miao added.
Many students are reluctant to leave at the end of the event. According to Huawei's Corporate Social Responsibility Director Zhao Yuan, some students send letters that are filled with thousands of gratitude words to the company.
"A student from Uzbekistan praised this trip as a 'journey of fairy tales'. Many students even took home country their respective name tags. The experience in Huawei has enabled them to have a knowledge of real China and pondered over where the global technology center is, and further rethinking about their career plans in future," Zhao adds.
More and more initiatives connecting local government and clients have achieved mutual benefits, which has boosted Huawei and China's confidence and the people-to-people connectivity in economic progress.
Textile Industry Park Tightening China-Tajikistan Friendship
In another scheme, Chinese companies invested in a textile factory in southwest Tajikistan. This initiative has boosted the local cotton industry and promoted the two countries' economic cooperative growth.
President Xi first proposed to build the Silk Road Economic Belt during his visit to Central Asia in 2013.
This strategy serves as an opportunity in promoting country-to-country exchange along the historically famous route, an official commented.
In the project, northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is endeavoring to build itself as a core zone for improving relations between China and other countries.
In 2014, China Zhongtai Group and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps jointly launched an earlier textile project in Tajikistan. In preparation, some 38 overseas employees studied spinning and weaving techniques in the city of Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province.
It is expected the textile project will help further strengthen confidence in Chinese brands; benefit 3,000 locals; and generate an annual revenue of 2 billion yuan (U.S.$ 290 million), an organizer said.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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