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Exchanges among BRICS nations vital for communication

2013-03-28 09:36 China Daily     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment
Performers from Tianjin take part in an arts festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, in July 2011. LIANG QUAN / XINHUA

Performers from Tianjin take part in an arts festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, in July 2011. LIANG QUAN / XINHUA

BRICS countries must give more attention to cultural exchanges to sustain long-term cooperation, and China and Africa still have a lot of room to develop people-to-people communication, said a top South African official.

"We are now cooperating for development and common interests, but for a sustainable and long-term cooperation it should be more integrated," said Paul Mashatile, South Africa's minister of arts and culture.

The five BRICS countries each have their own distinct history, cultural background and customs, so cultural exchanges and communication could be the "glue" connecting all the members in this bloc, Mashatile told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

"The good thing about culture is that you don't need to be similar, but still you can be united, and this is what we call in South Africa 'united in diversity'," he said. "In this BRICS bloc we are not creating a group with similar thinking or culture, but a group to share the rich differences and experiences."

He said experiences from South Africa can be borrowed because the country is highly diverse and has a wide array of ethnicities and cultures.

Sino-African relations have largely been defined by economic and trade ties, but cultural links between two sides, especially people-to-people connections, are not growing at the same pace, Mashatile said.

"Contacts and connections are already there, but we need to push these kind of people-to-people relations to a higher level," he said. "Many South Africans know Chinese stars such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but there is a lot more than that about Chinese culture and art to tell my people. For instance I myself quite enjoy Chinese traditional music."

A Program of Cooperation under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was signed in 2011 to enhance the cultural exchanges between the two peoples, he said.

"Under the agreement, we are expecting our first 'Chinese Cultural Season' in South Africa next year to join us in celebrating our 20th anniversary of the new republic," Mashatile said. "And in 2015, we are to send our singers, dancers and artists to China, to show them the real South Africa."

He said both countries must follow through on the agreements, and a good starting point is to enhance youth communication.

"We have signed similar agreements with Russia and France and transferred them to real action, which received a positive reaction," he said. "For instance, the 'France Cultural Season' greatly bridged the gap between South Africa and France on art knowledge. That's what we are expecting from future interaction with China."

During President Xi Jinping's first overseas visit, China's first lady Peng Liyuan has been a hot topic worldwide, especially her background as a singer and artist.

Mashatile said her role will be of great importance to further enhancing the world's knowledge of China.

"If we have a chance, we would like to invite her to give us a lecture about her own experiences on art and singing, to let us know more about the related stories back in China," he said.

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