Stanley's blog

EU-China: role of culture

“Politicians come and go but culture lives on” said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, when opening the “EU-China High Level Cultural Forum”, which was held in Brussels on 6-7 October.

The successful development of EU-China relations needs increased mutual understanding. A first step towards mutual understanding is cultural engagement (culture in its broadest sense).

Within this perspective, the forum was important and hopefully will become an annual event. Wen Jiabao proposed the idea at the Nanjing Summit last year. In any case, President announced that 2012 will be “EU-China Year of Intercultural Dialogue”. 2011 will be “EU-China Youth Year” in which culture will play an important part.

This focus is very welcome. President Barroso and Commissioner Vassiliou (responsible for culture, education and youth) are committed.

The programmes need to embrace culture at all levels and EU-China activities must be interactive.

We all frequently talk and write about the need for mutual understanding. The trouble is that we do not consistently work on promoting it.

When two persons (whether politicians, officials or public policy experts) meet to discuss an issue, it is essential that each person first seeks to understand how the other sees the problem and in what context.

This is seen at its worst when Ministers or Commissioners attend meetings in other countries, particularly where the culture is very difficult, such s China.. The politician reads his/her papers on the flight, attends a briefing at the relevant embassy or mission, participates in the meeting and returns home.

We should not wait to establish trust before working together. Working together establishes trust. Mutual understanding facilitates working together.

Within this perspective, the Cultural Forum is to be welcomed.

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