It is well known fact that the far-flung celebrations of Chinese New Year around the world are a reminder of how growing popularity and expanding international recognition of Chinese culture and traditions demonstrate the progress of China's soft power particularly in education.
A huge number of people around the world are celebrating the Chinese New Year or Chinese Spring Festival, which lasts 15 days. The popularity and influence of this festival has reached beyond China and Chinatowns and has become an expected event not only for the Chinese. London's Trafalgar Square hosts one of the biggest Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Europe every year, with the last year alone witnessing nearly half a million international visitors to the event.
“These celebrations are a reminder too of the richness and vibrancy of Chinese culture here in the UK, and on this New Year, I want to pay tribute to the incredible contribution that the British Chinese community makes to this country,” UK Prime Minister David Cameron said during his festive speech , sending warm wishes to all those who celebrate the Chinese New Year.
According to the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming “Chinese culture is gaining increasing acceptance overseas, which in itself attests to China's progress with a burgeoning foreign appetite to know more about China.”
Study in China
Higher education, language and culture are the most crucial components of Chinese soft power, which is why enhancing the educational sector became critical for the Chinese authorities.
In the 1990s, the government launched the 211 Project, the largest investment ever in the improvement of 100 universities and 100 key disciplines. And there was the 985 Project, aimed at allocating funds to a number of elite universities. These initiatives resulted in an unprecedented expansion of China’s higher education: if in 1999 the number of new enrolled students was 1.3 million, in 2006 it skyrocketed to 5.4 million. At the same time, Beijing focused on creating favorable conditions for foreign students, including a growing number of exchange programs and grants for studies.
In 1992 only 13,000 foreign students studied in China, in 2000 this number jumped to 52,200 and reached 162,700 in 2006. The number of foreign students coming to study in China continues rising: in 2011 it set a new record of 292,611 students from 194 countries. Over 75 percent of students are from Asia, with South Korea and Japan consistently sending the most. In 2014, the total number reached more than 375,000 international students from 203 countries who studied in China. China is now rank the 3rd hot education destination after US and UK.
In UK, the British Council, which is leading the campaign to study in China, said around 3,500 students travelled to China in 2011 but it wanted the number to grow to at 15,000 by 2016.
Recognizing the importance of language in increasing cultural attractiveness, China has been aggressive in promoting the study of Chinese all over the world. In 2004, the Chinese government unveiled a plan to open 500 Confucius Institutes throughout the world by 2010. By late 2005 the Chinese Ministry of Education had set up 32 Confucius Institutes in 23 countries in order to provide Chinese language and cultural resources to host countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to promote China's cultural soft power by disseminating modern Chinese values and showing the charm of Chinese culture to the world.
“China should be portrayed as a civilized country featuring a rich history, ethnic unity and cultural diversity, and as an oriental power with good government, developed economy, cultural prosperity, national unity and beautiful mountains and rivers,” Xi said.
Photo taken on Oct. 12, 2015 shows the Chinatown in London, UK. (Photo/Xinhua)
Chinese math teacher Jin Xiangjun gives lessons to the students in a primary school in Essex in the U.K. on March 17, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
At the opening ceremony of the China Center in Dickson Poon University of Oxford, students wave Chinese and British flags to welcome Prince William on Sept. 8, 2014. (Photo/Xinhua)
An actor in London participates in the Chinese New Year parade, celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Goat on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
Photo taken on Nov. 12, 2014 shows all kinds of lanterns in the "Chinese Lantern Festival" held in Wiltshire in southwest England. (Photo/Xinhua)
A British reader reads the book "Xi Jinping: The Governance of China" in London Book Fair on April 14, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
Lion dance performed in Trafalgar Square in downtown London to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Goat on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
Peking Opera actors participate in a parade held in London to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Goat on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
A poster of the exhibition of "Ming 50 years that changed China" in the British Museum on Sept. 15, 2014. (Photo/Xinhua)
A child watches the Chinese New Year parade in London on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)
Photo taken on Sept. 8, 2014 shows the China Center in Dickson Poon University of Oxford in the U.K. (Photo/Xinhua)