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UK to promote cultural understanding with China
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16:45, January 22, 2009

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The British Council will expand its operations in China and scholarships for Chinese students to go to the UK will not be cut down despite the tough time in 2009 due to the economic downturn, said Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the organization on Jan. 20 during his visit to China.

While in most other countries the British Council tends to choose to promote only a part of their programs, when it comes to China the institution aims at implementing a full range of their projects. "To the UK, very few countries have the same importance that China has," Mr. Davidson said.

Believing that a better cultural relationship can strengthen the political, economic and trade relations, Mr. Davidson is determined to expand the operations in 2009, particularly in China. The British government has reduced the number of scholarships for some countries, but it has not done so for China.

Statistics from the British Council show that in 2008 about 35,000 Chinese students applied for studying in the UK, up by 28 percent compared to 2007. Some 27,000 of them obtained their visas.

Mr. Davidson said that his institution would not only promote the understanding of the UK among Chinese people, but also help British young people know more about China. He believes that education and policy dialogues are the most important way to achieve a two-way understanding.

More than 500 schools in the UK are teaching Chinese now, compared to zero five years ago. More Confucius Institutions opened in the UK recently. The British Council is bringing about 1,000 students to a summer camp in Shanghai in order to learn more about China.

In addition, forty school districts in the UK have built contacts with school districts in China. The British Council has the plan to make every school in the UK establish international links with overseas schools by 2013 and a large proportion of those links will be with China. So far 544 British schools have built a partnership with schools in China.

New technologies are used in promoting English studies in China. "English Online", an online program sponsored by the British Council helping Chinese students study English, was launched in Oct. 2007 and, at the end of 2008, it counted 100,000 registered users. In cooperation with Nokia, the UK institution will also help rural students study English.

In 2008, more than 265,000 people participated in the IELTS test in China, an increase by 32 percent compared to 2007.

However, Mr. Davidson recognized that it is difficult for Chinese people to distinguish the British from the American culture and that this is a challenge for their work in China. He hopes to work with influential Chinese and to strengthen links between the creativity industries of the two countries.

But he does not think the competition would lead to more cultural relations with one country and less with another. "The better and the more people have the opportunity to understand each other, the better the trust will be and the better the relationship will be," he said.

By People's Daily Online

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