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An article by Yuan Guiren, Minister of Education of the People's Republic of China,on The Parliament

President Xi Jinping’s historic visit to EU headquarters in March 2014 - the first by a Chinese head of state - aptly demonstrated the growing importance China sets by its relations with the EU. A key priority for China-EU cooperation is the further development of educational and cultural ties.

In the spring of 2012, Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong (the then State Councillor) and European Commissioner for Education and Culture, Androulla Vassiliou, jointly launched a new mechanism for deeper cooperation on cultural exchange - the EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD). HPPD has raised cultural exchanges to the same level as the other two pillars of our cooperation: political and economic affairs, facilitating development of China-EU relations.

In China we say: “Plant a seed in spring; Harvest a thousand in autumn”. This autumn, the second High Level People-to-People Dialogue takes place in Beijing to take stock and push our cooperation further. The successes are many, notably in the field of educational exchange. Over the last two years, both sides have organised series of events and activities within the framework of the dialogue. The follow-up action has since been fully implemented, and the result and progress has been effective and fruitful.

First of all, the high-level dialogue has proven a strong platform to strengthen China-EU exchange on education policy. The first ever bilateral meeting on cooperation in higher education facilitated exchanges on new ideas, policies and initiatives; it also served to enhance mutual understanding, trust and cooperation.

Secondly, we have expanded the scale and increased the intensity of China-EU student and youth exchanges. The Chinese government has been dutifully implementing its commitment to provide 30,000 scholarships between 2012 and 2016. Currently, there are over 230,000 Chinese students studying in EU countries, and over 40,000 Europeans studying in China. Since 2012, two-way youth exchange between the EU and China has reached over 6000.

Thirdly, we have steadily promoted educational cooperation. Both China and the EU have established platforms for cooperation in areas such as engineering and vocational training and promoted the compatibility of our higher education systems. We also focused on strengthening the leadership and management of joint cooperative education institutions and projects, maintained our support of flagship cooperation projects such as the China-EU School of Law (CESL) at the China University of Political Science and Law, and the Institute for Clean and Renewable Energy at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Fourthly, we have strengthened our cooperation on language learning and the promotion of linguistic diversity. All 24 EU official languages are taught in China. Since 2009, China and the EU have hosted three linguistic seminars, and jointly implemented a training programme for minority EU official languages. As of April 2014, China and the EU member states had established 116 Confucius Institutes and 147 Confucius Classrooms.

When one plants seeds in Spring, it is already with the expectation of the joys of the Autumn harvest. We know however, that the reward comes only with time and hard work. China and the EU have already proven their dedication to this aim. I trust that we will continue to work together to improve the educational prospects of our people, and to build many more lasting friendships. These ties and mutual trust will stand us in good stead as we move forward into this new decade of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

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