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It is a hard task to reach a mutual understanding among 1.8 billion population ---- 500 million in European Union and 1.3 billion in China, said Mr. Serge Abou, EU Ambassador to China, who calls for more people-to-people exchanges between China and Europe.
If many things in 2008 aroused negative responses in European public opinion, the riots in Tibet for example, that is basically due to “ignorance about modern China in public opinion,” he said in an exclusive interview with People’s Daily Online last week.
Diplomacy and economy are not enough for the EU-China partnership, Mr. About said. “We have to dig more on culture.”
As a learner of Chinese, he believes that learning that the language is a concrete access to the Chinese culture and that the European government should encourage people’s interest in that.
But it is a slow process, he recognized. France and Germany are neighboring countries, but as a French national, he did not know what modern Germany was like, until he started to work for the European Commission. For European and Chinese people it is much harder to understand each other also because of the long distance: “(To go from China to Europe) it takes a flight of ten hours.”
Of course, Mr. Abou said, people are much more easily connected in this globalized world. The number of student exchanges is growing by 15 to 20 percent a year. And a very big program of student swaps under the Mundus scholarship was signed during Premier Wen’s visit, further promoting this kind of exchanges.
Mr. Abou saw a big progress in government officials, parliamentarians and business persons, when it comes to their knowledge about China. Some of them have “surprisingly high knowledge about the country,” he said. But it would be difficult to achieve that level among the whole population. That is why he thinks that movies and sports can help a lot. The Beijing Olympics, for instance, “have made China better known.”
Each EU member states presented a film to the Chinese audience in December 2008. But China has imported much less European movies than it has for Hollywood. During that festival Mr. Abou expressed his hope that more European movies would be introduced to Chinese people.By People’s Daily Online