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Guanxi with Rhodes leads to Chinese book donation

Date Released: Wed, 9 May 2012 08:59 +0200

It was a rainy evening in early March when journalism alumni Wang Guoqin noticed the sign to the Confucius Institute while revisiting his alma mater with family and friends. His curiosity led him to Chinese Studies Professor Ma Yue, who still happened to be in his office.

The chance meeting established a personal connection, or guanxi, that added to Guoquin’s existing ties with the university. As a result, the Chinese International Publishing Group (CIPG) donated Chinese language and culture books to Rhodes Library at the unveiling of the new publishing base of ChinAFrica Media and Publishing Ltd in Pretoria on 30 March.

ChinAFrica magazine, of which Wang is Executive Manager, is a sub-branch of the internationally renowned Beijing Review and also falls under the CIPG. Professor Ma Yue, who is Head of Chinese Studies in the School of Languages, received a symbolic catalogue on behalf of Rhodes University library, at the high profile launch which was attended by many Chinese dignitaries as well as Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane.

The learning aids and books about modern China will be shipped to Rhodes in the near future, and is significant because of growing economic ties between South Africa and China as developing nations. But Prof Ma Yue says that there is also a need to break down misconceptions about the rising Asian superpower. “The relationship between China and South Africa is mutually beneficial,” he says, adding that China is sincere about developing along with Africa.

Students at the Confucius Institute affirmed the importance of understanding China in their speeches at the China Bridge competition last weekend in Cape Town. “They don’t talk about China taking advantage of South Africa,” says Prof Ma Yue. One of the students, Sihle Magubane, said in his speech that China’s priority to help South Africa grow and not to exploit it is what makes the relationship between the two countries special. Prof Ma Yue adds that students who had seen China with their own eyes are more critical of how China has been typecast.

Guoquin agrees. “As China is becoming more dominant in terms of economic power, everyone will be influenced by it in some way. So the more we understand China and its culture, the more we can avoid having negative stereotypical images,” he says.

Guoquin believes that the more people know about each other, the better it is for long term relationships. “There is much ignorance about China, and with young people being generally curious with open minds, these books will fill a growing need.”

The monthly ChinAfrica Magazine, which has been published since 1988, also introduces South African readers to Chinese culture, social commentaries, economic development and challenges. According to CPIG President Zhou Mingwei, it seeks to gage the feelings of African people about the development of relationships with China.

It was Guoquin’s own relationship with his alma mater, the university from which he “benefitted forever”, that has led him to donate the books, of which the only other beneficiary was the National Library of South Africa.

By Ruth Woudstra

Photo: Head of Chinese Studies in the School of Languages Professor Ma Yue receives a symbolic catalogue from His excellency, Mr Tian Xuejun, the new Chinese embassador, of the books donated to Rhodes Library at a high profile launch of ChinAFrica Media and Publishing Ltd in Pretoria on 30 March.