24 January 2013 Panel discussion: “China's rise – Quo vadis Europe?”

On 24 January 2013, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr organized a panel discussion on "China's rise – Quo vadis Europe?" in the atrium of the Tec Towers in Duisburg. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Dr. Dirk Messner, Director of the German Development Institute in Bonn. Reinhard Bütikofer (Member of the European Parliament), Johannes Pflug (Member of the German Parliament (Bundestag)), Zhang Danhong (journalist at Deutsche Welle) and Prof. Dr. Thomas Heberer (co-director of the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr) discussed on the future of Europe in the 21st century. In 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, Asia was not a dominant issue in the German public and political discourse. Now, the focus of world politics has shifted more and more to the East. A driving force in this development was the People's Republic of China and its rapid economic development.

The journalist Zhang Danhong assessed the Chinese foreign policy towards the European Union as ambivalent. On the one hand, China wants a strong Europe as a counterweight to the United States of America. On the other hand, the polyphony within the EU will also be used again and again by the Chinese side to negotiate individual issues with each individual member states. Ultimately, from a European perspective, this contributes to a fragmentation of the European Union.

The MEP Reinhard Bütikofer said he misses the strategic focus of the individual member states in the European policy towards China. The EU fails to speak with one voice, which can be seen in missing arrangements between member states and in the lack of coordination in their actions. Bütikofer sees an opportunity for dialogue at the level of the civil society. In particular German foundations do foster and should further support cooperation and exchange between i.e. China and Germany with positive effects for a better mutual understanding.

The Member of the German Bundestag Johannes Pflug described the German foreign policy as economically orientated. The relations between China and Germany are very close, which is also reflected in the annual government consultations. However, the economic relationship between both countries is also contradictory at times. Germany sees China as an important market for exports, but at the same time, Chinese investment in Germany would be regarded with suspicion. This attitude causes disconcertment on the Chinese side because the Chinese direct investment would amount to only 3.5% in Germany and thus the fear of a "sell-out" of Germany are seen as unfounded.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Heberer of the University of Duisburg-Essen classified the EU's relations with China on the levels of policy, security and economy. On the political level, the EU does not play a major role, since there is no uniform policy of the Member States and thus the bilateral relationships of each individual state to China are the main focus. In terms of security, the relationship between the two actors is characterized by mistrust. So the EU's interests are not clearly defined. Specific topics such as human rights would be viewed by China as a point of an agenda that has to be worked through without an actual interest in concrete results. Thus, Prof. Dr. Heberer thinks that real cooperation and dialogue would only take place on the economic level.

All participants agreed that it is important to better understand the sensitivities at the European and the Chinese side to prevent irritation. A lively discussion followed and critical questions about China's role in Europe and how the EU-Chinese relations could be improved came from the audience. 180 people accepted the invitation of the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr and attended the panel discussion, which underlines the interest in the subject and the importance of the relations with China.

5 February 2013 Task force seminar in cooperation with the State Chancellery of NRW

The relationship between the German federal state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and China has intensified significantly in recent years. A variety of different governmental institutions, companies and associations now maintain regular contacts with the Middle Kingdom.

Even China's international standing has risen in the course of its economic development. Global issues such as climate change, financial crises and international conflicts cannot be solved without cooperation with China. But China's role and behaviour are difficult to judge: Is China's dynamic development threatening? Will the economic development continue? Does the country accept international norms and standards? How can cooperation with China be made meaningful and productive?

Many federal states, including NRW, have expanded their cooperation with China and, regarding the aforementioned questions, are interested in a consultation by the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr, which was founded at the University of Duisburg-Essen in 2009. In the winter semester 2012/13, about 25 students of the University of Duisburg-Essen engaged in the so-called “task force seminar” in cooperation with the state chancellery of NRW.  

On 5 February 2013, the young researchers and students of the master program "International relations / development policy" presented their findings and gave concrete recommendations for future cooperation with China to Minister Dr. Angelica Schwall-Düren and to representatives of the various departments of the state chancellery in Düsseldorf.

Under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Thomas Heberer and Dr. Anja Senz, both directors of the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr, the participants had, amongst other things, dealt with the question of how the visibility and recognition of NRW could be increased in China, how the attractiveness of NRW for Chinese companies could be increased, how the integration of Chinese students could be facilitated and how the existing partnerships at the local and state level with China could be deepened.

This sophisticated student counselling work has been a tradition at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Since 1999, students have been developing quality reports in so-called "task force seminars” under the guidance of lecturers, for external partners from business and politics, and have also been presenting their findings to an expert audience. In this way, students could practice how political advice works and how a complex issue can be presented to a non-university audience. The one-hour presentation was well received by those present. Minister Dr. Schwall-Düren pointed out, that in addition to an in-depth analysis on specific topics, the presentation also led to many new and creative ideas for the further development of cooperation with Chinese partners.

8 February 2013 Chinese New Year and Spring Festival

According to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, the “Year of the Dragon” ended in February 2013. All the Chinese people around the world welcomed in 2013 the “Year of the Snake”. In China, the snake is perceived as a very clever, logical thinking, but cunning creature. For the Chinese, this means to rely less on instinct. Rather, rational and well thought decisions are required.

On 08 February 2013, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr celebrated the Chinese New Year. As in previous years, a multifarious festival to welcome the New Year was organized in cooperation with the Chinese student associations of Duisburg and Essen. Many friends and people interested in the Chinese culture came to the International Centre at the Duisburg inner harbour to welcome the year of the snake with music and dance as well as typical Chinese food. Part of the program and one of the highlights this year was a tombola, which was eagerly anticipated by the visitors. Among other things, a flight ticket to China was the main prize. Music played on traditional instruments and performances by a Chinese pop band were also part of the programme.

14 February 2013 Introductory lecture: “The things you always wanted to know about the Chinese language”

On 14 February Dr. Yanqian von der Lippe-Fan came to the Confucius Institute to give a lecture on the Chinese language. This was the 2013 start of the public lecture series “China in Transition”, regularly organized by the Confucius Institute since 2010. Dr. von der Lippe-Fan wanted to encourage the audience, take their fear of the Chinese language and give them an interesting overview of the features of Chinese characters, the tonality and grammar structure on the basis of many amusing and curious examples.

Dr. von der Lippe-Fan explained the Sino-Tibetan origin of the Chinese language and the differences from the Japanese and Korean languages. She also talked about the different dialects in China and explained that Mandarin is spoken by 875 million people. This rapid development was due to the wide spread of mass media and the education system, which focuses on Mandarin. Dr. von der Lippe-Fan also stated that with the phonetic system “Pinyin” it is easy to learn Chinese! There is even no declension, conjugation or explicit plural forms in Chinese. However, the syntax, context and word order are important.

She also pointed out the diversity of the Chinese language in an amusing way, e.g. sound variants, common characters, similar sounding words or linguistic misunderstandings but also the acquisition of foreign words and the translation of brand names. Furthermore, she recommended learning calligraphy and to focus on the basic strokes and the correct writing order. This will inevitably lead to a faster and more fluid learning of Chinese handwriting. She also indicated with a wink that one should copy the teacher to perfection and not directly develop an own writing. In the final discussion, it was mainly discussed about the essential amount of to-learn characters and the right balance of learning pronunciation and writing. In this respect, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr offers many language courses for the various needs of interested parties.

March and April 2013 Chinese language competitions

On 6 April 2013, the German finals of the 12th “Chinese Bridge” competition were held in Munich. Every year, Hanban, the Bureau of Chinese language in Beijing, organizes this international competition. The Chinese Bridge (汉语 桥) allows students to showcase their knowledge of Chinese language and to compete with other students. On 22 March 2013, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr organized a pre-selection for the German Finals and sent two participants. One of the participants, Niklas Donath from Bochum, won the finals and thus was given the opportunity to travel to China and participate in the world finals of the "Chinese Bridge", where he had the chance to win a scholarship and other awards.

Also, in the so called “creative competition Chinese” – a state wide competition for high school students, which can be seen as a supplement to the international "Chinese Bridge" competition – young Chinese learners could showcase their knowledge of the Chinese language in various ways, such as by presenting short plays, skits, songs or poems. A jury, in which Prof. Xu Kuanha, co-director of the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr, is a member since 2010, evaluates the performances and awards prizes for the best performance. In 2013, a success was recorded: The Max Planck Gymnasium (grammar school) from Duisburg and partner of Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr reached the second prize in the category "secondary education"! The Confucius-Institute Metropolis Ruhr congratulates to this success.

April 2013 Student wins a trip to China in April 2013

Hanban, an organization of Chinese Ministry of Education and the upper organization of the Confucius Institutes worldwide, hosted an online competition in 2013. Chinese enthusiasts from around the world had the opportunity to present Chinese language skills in a short film. Dialogues or songs could be recorded and uploaded on the website of Hanban. A total of more than 600 videos were presented and almost 20 million votes were submitted worldwide. In addition to the votes, a verdict of a jury consisting of linguistics professors of the most prestigious Chinese universities and foreign students was decisive to ensure the selection of high quality videos.

Kang Yongxing, a visiting scientist at the Confucius-Institute Metropolis Ruhr and Chinese teacher at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and two of his students, Genevieve Schermann and Silviya Dimova of the Master's program East Asian Studies, made a short film with the assistance of Mr. Mark Röwekamp. This film was inspired by the famous Chinese story "Golden Nugget". The moral of the story is that friendship is more important than any treasure in the world. Filming took place in the Chinese Garden in Duisburg. A total of 10 days were needed to film and edit the video. This effort was rewarded with about 30,000 online votes.

The Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr is delighted with the third place of Genevieve Schermanns’s short film. As a result, in 2013 she had the opportunity to travel with other winners from different countries to China to a summer camp for 10 days at the invitation of Hanban.

May to December 2013 Caricature exhibition in the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr

From 01 May to 31 December, everyone interested could admire selected caricatures of the Chinese artist Li Xiaoyang in the premises of the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr. The cartoons were drawn exclusively for the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr and humorously reflected the lives and difficulties of ordinary people in China. Current issues such as environmental problems were depicted, but also the dark side of human traits and the social conditions caused thereby.

20 June 2013 Public lecture by Prof. Dr. Stevan Harrell


On 20 June 2013, the Confucius Institute welcomed Prof. Dr. Stevan Harrell, who gave a lecture about China's ethnic minorities. The renowned American anthropologist from Washington University in Seattle focused not only on the well-known minorities, such as the Tibetans or the Uyghur, but also gave an insight into many other minorities living in China and introduced the official minority policies, the history of this policies and in particular the “Minzu system”. At the end of his presentation Prof. Dr. Harrell pointed out that China's current economic development would encourage the development of a so-called "mainstream"-society. This would, however, have less influence on the strong ethnic identities in Tibet or Xinjiang, but put pressure on many other minorities. Afterwards, Prof. Dr. Harrell discussed with the audience different aspects in particular with regard to the challenges of multiethnic states. With his explanations and profound knowledge, he ensured an entertaining lecture.


June/July 2013 Training program on Urbanization


From 24 June 2013 to 12 July 2013, the Rhine Ruhr Institute for Social Research and Political Consultancy, in collaboration with the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr, organized a training program on “urbanization” for a delegation from the Chinese province of Zhejiang. On behalf of the president of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), the group from Zhejiang was welcomed on 24 June by the Vice-Rector Dr. Ingrid Lotz-Ahrens. Mayor Manfred Osenger welcomed the delegation on 25 June on behalf of the City of Duisburg.

Under the academic guidance of Prof. Dr. Dieter Grunow, seminars were organized in Duisburg. Furthermore, the training was supplemented by excursions in the Ruhr area, as well as to Dusseldorf, Cologne and Bonn. The organizing team included Dr. Anja Senz (CI), Joachim Liesenfeld and Kay Loss (RISP). The co-directors of the Confucius Institute, Prof. Xu Kuanhua and Prof. Dr. Thomas Heberer acted in an advising role.

The 25 participants were senior representatives of various levels of government administration of the province (province, districts, counties and cities) and some scientists. All of them are responsible for the basic control of urbanization processes in their region. The aim of the training was to impart knowledge to the participants to deal with urbanization processes, with the help of examples from Germany and especially from the history of Ruhr area. Numerous scholars of the UDE, Ruhr University of Bochum and the Technical University of Dortmund discussed topics such as history of regional planning, urban design and current developments focusing on housing, transport, industry, energy, environmental protection, social policy, health and education. The training group also met experts in the city of Duisburg, the city of Muenster, the district of Recklinghausen, the RVR, the Emscher Cooperative, the NRW Ministry of Construction, Housing, Urban Development and Transport and in the Federal Network Agency (Bonn).


28 September 2013 Chinese Language Day


In the Chinese-German Year of Languages, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr organized a "Chinese Language Day" on 28 September 2013 in the Chinese Garden of Duisburg. The slogan for the day was "Vibrant Chinese Garden". Thus, the numerous visitors had the opportunity to discover the Chinese Garden and to learn more about different aspects of Chinese language, culture and philosophy. A presentation of the martial art Kung Fu by Wang Kai and his students was well received with much applause. Other events such as tea ceremony and Chinese music played on a Guzheng by the virtuoso Zhao Chanyuan were also a great success. In addition to the many special events, all-day activities were organized in the Chinese Garden. The visitors, for example, could try out Chinese Calligraphy, in the so called water pavilion young visitors could participate in an extensive children's program with scissor cuts, craft and colouring activities. In the mountain pavilion interested visitors had the opportunity to play Chinese chess and other games. Another highlight organized by the Confucius Institute was a quiz with questions about the Chinese Garden in Duisburg. The hints to solve this quiz could be found in the Chinese Garden itself. The first prize was a free rickshaw ride. A young girl was the happy winner and started her 30 minutes rickshaw ride immediately. Other small gifts like Chinese memory games, T-shirts and candles shaped like moon cakes could also be drawn. All in all this day was extraordinary and well received by more than 700 visitors.


25 October 2013 Fairytale readings in Duisburg and Oberhausen


On 25 October 2013, a reading of Chinese fairytales under the title "Of yellow storks, blue roses and colourful kites", presented by Harald Jüngst took place in the city library of Duisburg. The event was jointly organized by the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr and Duisburg City Library under the event series "Window to China".

The lecture hall of the Duisburg City Library was decorated in Chinese style and darkened for the reading to create a fairytale atmosphere. Approximately 70 children with their parents or grandparents listened to the stories that Harald Jüngst voiced well and recited excitingly. Two tales were on the agenda: the story about "How cats and dogs became enemies" and the story "About the brave boys Sheyi and his friend, the sea dragon". The very close description of Harald Jüngst, supported by gestures and facial expressions as well as a dragon (a hand puppet made by a doll maker specifically for this event), fascinated the children. The reading was accompanied by Chinese music suitable to the fairy tales. The event was a great success, let the children experience the charm of Chinese fairy tales and aroused their curiosity for the Middle Kingdom.

On 29 October, another 75 enthusiastic children from the age of six years came to the children's library in Oberhausen, a city not far away from Duisburg. They were delighted with the opportunity to hear tales from a distant country and to get to know the sounds of traditional Chinese music. Harald Jüngst so far released six Chinese stories as an audio book, to give the many fairytale friends the opportunity to listen to the stories. The audio books can be obtained from bookshops and the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr.


25 November 2013 Public Dialogue: “Development or Exploitation? China's cooperation with the countries of the South”


On 25 November 2013, Dr. Angelica Schwall-Düren, Minister for Federal Affairs, Europe and the Media of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr and the Institute of East Asian Studies of the University of Duisburg-Essen invited to a dialogue at the State Chancellery in the capital city Dusseldorf. Prof. Dr. Markus Taube (University of Duisburg-Essen), Dr. Song Wei (Deputy Director of the Department of Development Aid of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce), Marco Kauffmann Bossart (Southeast Asia correspondent for the NZZ (New Journal of Zurich)), and Wolfgang Schmitt (former Managing Director of GTZ) discussed about China’s cooperation with the countries of the South. Dr. Anja Senz, managing director of the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr, moderated the discussion. Over 100 invited guests attended the event.

Prof. Taube pointed out the cautious but elaborate adjustment of China to the global economy. Dr. Song Wei reflected the problems for the economic engagement of China in the region of Sub-Sahara and showed various possible solutions. Marco Kauffmann Bossart gave insides on the multifaceted "footprint" of China in Southeast Asia. Wolfgang Schmitt reflected on the one-sided criticism of China's engagement in Africa by European countries and stressed that often less criticism is formulated in African countries with regard to this development aid.

The assessments of the debaters were followed by a lively discussion. Many aspects of the topic were analyzed and questions from the audience were answered. All in all, the event with the specific focus on China’s relations to the global South was very well received by all attendees.