BEIJING, July 23 -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's tour to Latin America has brought an opportunity for two cultural traditions to create more active dialogue and bridge the great ocean that separates them.
In Havana on Tuesday evening, the last stop of his Latin America trip, President Xi enjoyed a ballet performance by Chinese and Cuban dancers with Cuban President Raul Castro.
The program featured a special dance created by 93-year-old Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso that paid tribute to Chinese culture. Titled "Dancer," the performance incorporated the passionate and dramatic Cuban Ballet with the skills of Chinese Peking Opera accompanied by ancient Chinese music.
Twelve hours before the ballet show, at a concert in Beijing, musicians from China's Central Conservatory of Music used traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the erhu to play Peruvian folk music.
At first glance, Chinese and Latin American cultures could not be more different, with stereotypes of conservative and introverted Chinese versus outgoing and dramatic Latin Americans.
However, as President Xi noted, Chinese and Latin Americans share a natural affection, despite the long distance from each other.
They share a similar destiny, as both are ancient cultural traditions struggling to fit into a modern world while trying to maintain their own identities.
On the other hand, the differences between the cultures may be what attracts them to each other.
Many Chinese are interested in Latin American art. Xu Xuanyi, a Beijing woman in her late twenties, is not a professional dancer but became one of the founders of the Chinese Association of Argentine Tango and competed in the World Tango Championship in Buenos Aires last year.
Several months ago when Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away, many Chinese mourned his death and voiced their love of his works.
There are plenty of examples of young Chinese artists succeeding in blending Latin American flavor into their art and drawing attention for their exotic style.
Government efforts to promote cultural cooperation between the two sides have also contributed. There are 31 Confucius Institutes in 14 Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Cuba. During this tour, President Xi pledged to establish more.
In the next five years, China will also grant government scholarships to 6,000 students from Latin American and Caribbean countries, invite 6,000 people to attend training courses and 400 for in-service master programs in China, as well as invite 1,000 leaders of political parties to visit China. In 2015, China will launch a training program for 1,000 young leaders from China, Latin America and the Caribbean.
At a summit with 11 Latin American and Caribbean leaders last week, Xi also suggested that 2016 be designated as the "Year of Cultural Exchanges" between China and the region.
With support from the government and leaders, the budding cultural exchanges between the two sides of the Pacific will prosper. Chinese and Latin American people will be able to overcome the geographic distance and approach each other.