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Youth build a rainbow of friendship between nations

By Wang Kaihao (China Daily)

08:38, April 16, 2013

A project aimed at bringing the young people of China and Mongolia together was launched in Ulan Bator on Friday. Named "Colongo", meaning "rainbow" in Mongolian, the project is one of the largest ever efforts to strengthen the relationship between the two nations. It was co-launched by the Chinese Embassy in Mongolia, the government of Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and several of Mongolia's ministries.

Later this month, 23 city designers from Mongolia will pay a weeklong visit to Inner Mongolia's Hohhot, Ordos, and Erenhot, to exchange ideas and experiences with their peers in Inner Mongolia. It will be the first of many exchanges between young professionals from both countries. Reporters from each country are expected to take part in a similar exchange in July.

Bai Yugang, the deputy head of the autonomous region's international communication association, says the project will run for more than three years. Activities in health, arts, and sports have been scheduled, and other topics are being considered.

"The Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Mongolia share a common language and traditions and this advantage and geographic affinity will be a solid base for communication between the two sides," Bai says.

The Mongolian organizers echoed Bai's sentiments. "It's phenomenal to expand communication to so many fields," says Tumenjargal Magaadai, Mongolia's Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism. "It's time to inherit our predecessors' efforts promoting the two countries' economic and cultural cooperation and pass them on to the younger generation."

The relationship between the two sides has blossomed in recent years. Ulan Bator has hosted the Inner Mongolia Culture Week three times, and Hohhot held a similar event to introduce Mongolia in 2010.

Mongolia has attracted about 1,000 Chinese enterprises to invest in the country. Liu Baatar, the chairman of the Ulan Bator-based Mongolia-Inner Mongolia Chamber of Commerce says young entrepreneurs can be crucial, giving impetus to a closer relationship between the two countries. The chamber of commerce is involved with more than 100 enterprises from Inner Mongolia.

He says although China and Mongolia have had similar youth exchanges in recent years, the absence of an ongoing framework has been a major problem. For example, a program to encourage Chinese youth to become volunteer teachers in Mongolia started well but later struggled when they failed to continue to attract new recruits. He says he is pleased existing frameworks are being utilized to maximize the influence of the Colongo project.

"Colongo is not only a rainbow connecting the two countries, but a ribbon tying us expats to our homeland," says Liu, who has lived in Mongolia for over 20 years. "Because we are familiar with both countries, we will explore other possible ways to make our own contribution."

Baibayin Tala, 29, a student of the Mongolian ethnic group from the autonomous region's Xilin Gol League, was a youth representative at the opening ceremony on Friday. He is earning his masters degree at the National University of Mongolia in Ulan Bator and has focused his studies on relations among different ancient Mongol clans.

"The common blood makes it easy to connect with my classmates," he says. "I am the only Chinese student in my class, but there are many students in China who are interested in Mongolia but have no access to better know about this country. Fortunately, Colongo offers a great opportunity."

"The top leaders from both sides agree that youth communication is a crucial part of the exchange of ideas on humanity," says Wang Xiaolong, Chinese Ambassador to Mongolia. "There is a huge space where the two sides can learn from each other."

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