China, Serbia cement foundation of people-to-people exchanges

By Xie Yahong, Liu Zhonghua (People's Daily) 09:57, May 07, 2024

The ironclad friendship between China and Serbia is brimming with new vitality in the new era, as mirrored by the growing enthusiasm for learning Chinese in Serbia, the expanded educational cooperation, the continuous enhancement of technological exchanges, and the frequent exchanges in tourism.

Serbia was one of the earliest countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China. Over the past decade, the two countries have carried out extensive cooperation in culture, education, tourism, sports, and other fields, building a solid foundation for people-to-people exchanges.

A math class is given in an intelligent classroom at the Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Education in Belgrade, Serbia. (People's Daily/Liu Zhonghua)

Nestling among green trees, a three-story white teaching building stands at the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Belgrade. On an exterior wall of the building, there are national flags of China and Serbia.

Danimir Mandic, dean of the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Belgrade, told People's Daily, "With the help of our Chinese friends, we now have one of the most advanced digital education and artificial intelligence (AI) technology laboratory in the Balkan region."

The laboratory Mandic referred to is the Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Education (hereafter referred to as "the Center") located in the white teaching building. In January 2020, NetDragon Websoft Holdings Ltd., a leading Chinese education and gaming provider, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development to collaborate on projects related to educational software, hardware, value-added services, and online intelligent learning platforms, with an aim to make Serbia's education more intelligent and digitalized. The Center is one of the important components of such collaboration.

In an intelligent classroom of the Center, People's Daily reporters experienced one of the most cutting-edge technologies: with the help of virtual reality goggles, tasks such as circuit testing and reagent handling in physical and chemical experiments can be simulated by operating the controller; upon detection of mis-operations, notifications are displayed on a screen, ensuring authenticity and safety.

There is an innovative educational lab within the Center, equipped with a variety of educational tools, such as intelligent homework assessment and analysis software, language learning software, and sandbox games. It also comes with an AI assistant that answers students' questions.

Young Serbians learn to cook Chinese dishes at the Chinese Cultural Center in Belgrade, Serbia. (People's Daily/Xie Yahong)

Mandic said that since the establishment of the Center, the Chinese side has fully leveraged its technological advantages to support Serbia in developing local educational resources with the help of AI assistants and robots.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Serbian version of an online learning software co-developed by China and Serbia played a crucial role in enabling remote teaching at major Serbian universities and ensuring the learning of students.

The Center has also established cloud technology partnership with Chinese companies such as Huawei. Mandic said that in the previous semester, many primary schools in Serbia started using smart screens manufactured by China, which has greatly enhanced students' digital skills.

In a cooking classroom at the Chinese Cultural Center in Belgrade (hereafter referred to as "the Chinese Cultural Center"), an engaging cooking class was staged, during which a Chinese chef demonstrated his expertise in cooking authentic Chinese dishes and made Kung Pao Chicken on the spot.

In May 2023, a Luban Workshop was established at the Chinese Cultural Center by Tourism College of Zhejiang and Academy of Applied Studies Belgrade. It is reported that both China and Serbia are working on localizing Chinese cooking textbooks and integrating relevant courses into the local vocational education system. They also plan to provide professional training in Chinese cuisine development and production, along with catering services for Chinese restaurant staff in Serbia.

A student wearing traditional Chinese costume poses for a picture at the first traditional Chinese clothing festival held by the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, in September 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Confucius Institute at the University of Novi Sa)

In recent years, the cultural and tourism cooperation between China and Serbia has achieved fruitful results, strengthening the bond between the two peoples. Two years after the visa exemption agreement between the two countries came into effect in 2017, China became the largest source of inbound tourists for Serbia. Besides, with the signing of the joint agreement on mutual recognition and replacement of driving licenses and the opening of direct flights between China and Serbia, the exchange of personnel between the two countries keeps increasing.

In downtown Belgrade, People's Daily reporters encountered Milos, a local tour guide who was leading a Chinese tourist group. He told People's Daily in fluent Chinese that he has been working as a tour guide since 2018 and has witnessed the increasing enthusiasm of Chinese tourists visiting Serbia.

"The visa exemption policy and the opening of direct flights have brought great convenience, and now more and more Chinese tourists are coming to Serbia. We welcome more Chinese friends to come to Serbia and experience the ironclad friendship between the two countries!" Milos said.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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