Jointly hosted by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and Sichuan University’s Institute of South-Asian Studies, the Sixth China-South Asia Cultural Forum was successfully held in Chengdu from December 17th to 18th, 2017. More than a hundred scholars, experts, and media representatives from China and across South Asia, with delegates from India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, attended this year’s forum, which was organized around the theme of “China-South Asia People-to-People Dialogue and the ‘Belt & Road’ Initiative.”
Li Tao, Deputy Director of SCU’s Institute of South-Asian Studies, presided over the opening ceremony of the forum, while various distinguished foreign guests, including the Nepali Ambassador to China and university presidents, gave speeches.
Xu Jiuping, Assistant to the President of Sichuan University, addressed the forum, stressing the importance of South Asia’s strategic position in relation to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Xu hopes that, as strategic partners, China and the South Asian region will further develop their collaborative relationship and work together towards the flourishing of human progress.
The Nepali Ambassador pointed out that cultural exchange between China and countries in South Asia has always formed an important component of transnational relations in the region. Tapping into the interconnectedness of cultures allows people to understand each other on a deeper level, which ultimately promotes peace. As China enters this next stage of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” China and Nepal are well set to further develop their strategic partnership. This year’s forum, he noted, provided a highly significant opportunity for experts and scholars from each country represented to discuss their respective understandings of each other, seeking common ground and promoting mutual goodwill.
Pakistan’s Consul General in Chengdu explained that cultural exchange plays a key role in international relations. Going back many years, the history of Sino-Pakistani cultural exchange offers a strong example of friendly cooperation between two countries of very different cultural, religious, and linguistic backgrounds. In the near future, the Pakistani Consulate General in Chengdu will establish the Pakistani Cultural Research Center to promote even better cooperation and exchange between China and Pakistan.
The president of Kabul University stressed that intercultural exchange was vital to peaceful coexistence among nations. The China-South Asia Forum serves to explore matters deeply relevant to the region, matters relating to security and regional peace, as well as economic development. He pointed to the case of the Confucius Institutes, which facilitate not only the teaching of Chinese language but also serve to familiarize students with Chinese traditional thinking. “I hope,” he stated, “that through these and other educational and cultural exchange initiatives, the people of Afghanistan will be able to better grasp the essence of Confucian culture, including the concepts of renyi (“goodness”), liyi (“propriety”), baorong (“tolerance”), and zhongcheng (“loyalty”).”
Subtopics discussed at the conference covered many aspects within the larger framework of cultural exchange in the context of China’s "Belt and Road" Initiative, including mechanisms for establishing people-to-people dialogue, educational cooperation, religious dialogue, and others.
This was the third time SCU hosted the China-South Asia Cultural Forum, testifying to the important role Sichuan University has played and continues to occupy in academic research on South Asia and Sino-South Asian relations.