Institute to boost links with China
A new academic institute in Northern Ireland will foster deeper relations with the region and China, a government minister from Beijing has said.
Chinese vice minister of education Hao Ping expressed hope that the Confucius Institute would help promote a greater understanding between the two cultures.
The centre, which will teach Mandarin Chinese, is being established by the University of Ulster.
Hao Ping was in Belfast with officials to be briefed on plans for a week of Chinese cultural events in April to mark the formal launch of the Confucius Institute. He said both countries could reap a number of benefits from the centre.
"I think the establishment of the Confucius Institute here at Ulster will provide a platform for students in Northern Ireland and also students in the United Kingdom to learn about Chinese language, Chinese culture, Chinese history and the arts," he said.
"At the same time we would like it to serve as a platform for Chinese young people to understand about Northern Ireland, your culture, your history and education system. This is a platform for mutual understanding and learning."
Hanban, an offshoot of the Chinese Ministry of Education, has sanctioned the setting up of the institute.
With headquarters at the Coleraine campus and offices on its Belfast city centre campus, the institute is a collaboration with Zhejiang University of Media and Communications in south-eastern China. There are 350 other Confucius institutes operating in universities in 105 countries.
The Confucius Institute of Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster (CINIU) will not be solely focused on the teaching of Mandarin Chinese. It will also encourage private and public sector companies and organisations wishing to trade and engage with China to study not only the language but the business and administrative culture, its customs and practices to gain a competitive advantage.
UU Provost Professor Alastair Adair said: "The University is very honoured to have been chosen to establish Northern Ireland's only Confucius Institute which we believe will become a vital link academically, culturally and economically for the fostering of closer ties between Northern Ireland and China."