Written By: Maryam Razzaq
Interview with Dr. Zhang Daojian,Head of Confucius Institute Islamabad
China has been a time-tested friend of Pakistan and it acknowledges Pakistan’s historical recognition of China’s republican transition in 1949. While people of both countries enjoy traditional eastern cultures, their state-to-state relations are cemented at an even deeper level to harmonize the geo-strategic policies affecting the geo-political situation. The sincerity and loyalty to national interests of each other, reflected and exhibited at different forums of world, is a testimony of the everlasting cordial relations between the two countries.
The start of new era in the shape of CPEC ushering the financial and developmental activity in recent past has been the result of trust, confidence and belief between the two nations. CPEC will be instrumental in exchange of ideas, technical expertise, elevating the quality of life and above all, fusion of culture in the shape of language, values and way of life. The major barrier of effective communication i.e. language has been amply addressed and for this purpose Confucius Institute Islamabad was established in 2005, through collaboration of Hanban Headquarter, Beijing Language and Culture University, and National University of Modern Languages. It is the first Confucius Institute in the Islamic world which has won the award “Confucius Institute of the Year” four times, “Individual of the Year” twice, and also won “Confucius Institute Pioneer Prize” in 2015. It was also honored as the “Model Confucius Institute” in 2016. The main job of Confucius Institute is to teach Chinese language and promote Chinese culture in Pakistan. Not only it is a center for teaching but also a center for cultural exchange in Pakistan.
While Pakistan congratulates China on celebrating its 68th National Day, Dr. Zhang Daojian, Head of Confucius Institute Islamabad was interviewed to represent a common view of Chinese on this auspicious occasion especially with reference to people of Pakistan.
Q: Pakistan and China have the most cordial and strengthened relations at state-level. How do you see people-to-people relations between the two nations?
In the past five years, I have spent most of my time in Pakistan and so, I can say with conviction that people of Pakistan are the most welcoming and kind people I have ever known. In China, we call Pakistan as, “Iron Pakistan”. In Chinese language, this phrase is used to describe the most loyal and most faithful friends who will never betray each other. To promote the people-to-people communication between Pakistan and China, our Confucius Institute organizes a Summer Camp of around 100 campers to visit China every year. Also, I believe that the individual-level relations and people-to-people contact between Pakistan and China is destined to further improve with the actualization of CPEC.
Q: With CPEC fully operational, how do you see cultural fusion between the two nations?
I would like to use the phrase “cultural communication” rather than “cultural fusion”, because “fusion” seems to make two cultures become one. The facts are not like that. Communication means bilateral benefits. Communication enriches both cultures instead of fusing them into one. With CPEC’s operationalization, our ties will further deepen and contact will increase manifold, which is why we shall put in extra effort to shorten the time needed for cultural adaptation. Language teaching is one of most effective ways to solve the problem.
Q: How do you see the future of Pak-China friendship under the changing geopolitical settings?
I personally see the future of Pak-China friendship rising from higher than the Himalayas to higher than the skies. We have a famous proverb in China that says, “Cope with shifting events by sticking to a fundamental principle”. I believe, one fundamental principle of China’s foreign policy is to sustain Pak-China friendship. You can read it in the announcement from different Chinese leaders on the relationship between Pakistan and China. Now, with the promotion of CPEC, the ties in politics, economy and culture between two countries have greatly improved. We understand each other better and trust each other more than ever before. So I believe that in the future, Pak-China friendship will further strengthen. So even though, leaders change regularly in both countries, the friendship will never change.
Q: Pakistan and China’s growing economic and security ties have been criticized by few regional and international players. In your view what are the challenges?
Any great project comes with a lot of challenges. We have a saying in Chinese language that “a tall tree catches the wind”. I think the challenges emerge from all sides, the international actors and their interests, the cultural and language barriers, the problem of interest distribution and so on. But, in my opinion, we should listen to the critics and do research to promote the CPEC for its ultimate success. Challenges will not cease to exist so we basically need to be vigilant, make predictions and try to avoid the likely mistakes.
Q: Besides sound economic policies, which other factors, particularly cultural, have helped in China’s phenomenal economic growth?
That’s a very good question. Allow me to explain in cultural terms that what led China to develop its economy so fast. Chinese people have a great tradition of ‘home-state feelings’, which is the feeling and enthusiasm that leads you to love your country and hometown and family members. When the Chinese work hard to earn money, they don’t do so for themselves but for the whole family, their hometown and the country. Chinese wouldn’t waste their money rather they’d spend on someone in dire need of it. If one becomes successful in economy, he would like to leave the big cities and come back to his hometown to help the town fellows. That’s one of the reasons why Chinese people’s wealth accumulation develops so fast.
Q: Chinese civilization is one of the oldest civilizations. How do you see issues of terrorism, violence, and instability at regional and global level? And what measures do you suggest for a peaceful future?
I believe lack of communication and poverty are two of the main reasons for these problems. We should make efforts to eliminate poverty and increase the international communication and exchanges in political, economic and cultural fields. Pakistan and China set a great example to the whole world by close cooperation in these areas. CPEC is the project collaborated by both countries to increase economic activity and eliminate poverty. Confucius Institutes (CIs) aim to increase cultural communication between two countries. At present, there are four CIs in Pakistan and more are expected to be launched soon. I hope the CIs play a role in clearing misunderstandings and improving understandings. Meanwhile, NUML set up a branch in Xinjiang Normal University, NUML International Center of Education (NICE) which is functional now. Such Institutes are bridges to communicate between countries. We need more bridges.
Q: Decades of Pak-China strategic partnership are a thorn in the enemy’s eyes. What would you like to say on that?
I believe that Pak-China friendship will not harm anyone else’s interests, and we won’t be anyone’s enemies. The wisdom of both countries can deal with any problem. Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit, peaceful co-existence) are Chinese government’s fundamental policy. Therefore, maybe some countries are hostile to Pak-China relations, we should make clear that we are peaceful powers, and we’d like to promote co-prosperity in the region and the world.
Q: CPEC is already termed as a “Game Changer” for the region, what more, in your opinion, can Pak-China friendship do for the wellbeing of the region?
There is no doubt that CPEC will bring benefits for all interested parties. China and Pakistan envisage making the region stable and prosperous. We wish to improve the economic conditions of Pakistan and China as well as the region. Both countries are willing to share CPEC facilities with international partners in order to fetch common benefits and improve people to people contacts.
Q: How has your experience been living in Pakistan?
It’s quite pleasant and memorable. As you know I live here and consider Pakistan as my second home. I love it and enjoy my life here. Everybody is very kind to me. Whenever someone comes to know, I am a Chinese, they would call me “brother” and take photos with me. Pakistani people are very kind and loving. Let me share a story. This January, when I went to Wagah Border with my family members, I met a middle-aged Pakistani man who didn’t speak much English. I was parking my car and he was in his van. He was very happy to see a Chinese around and so he hugged me. Then he asked me if I had had lunch to which I said, no. What happened next really moved me. The man went back to his van without a word and brought some Naans (bread) to us. I knew that was his lunch so I refused at first but as he insisted, I took his food. That is a great example of what I have experienced in Pakistan. And I want the world to know how kind these Pakistanis are.
Q: On a lighter note, Pakistani and Chinese cultures are already amalgamating, how close do you see our Chinese foods to the actual Chinese food? Also, what is your favorite food from Pakistan?
It’s a very interesting question. There are four major Chinese cuisine: Shangdong Cuisine, Sichuan Cuisine, Cantonese Cuisine and Jiangsu Cuisine. I like them all but my favorite is my wife’s cooking, which is quite personalized. The Chinese food in Pakistan is very special and localized, for example in Chinese food, we seldom use curry but in Pakistan curry is used a lot. The Pakistani food in China also has to make some changes to meet the local taste. Globalization and localization indeed go side by side.
My favorite Pakistani food is Barbecue. It’s really amazing. I visit some Barbecue restaurants regularly. Sometimes, I feel myself just like a greedy child when I sit before the delicious mutton. I keep telling myself to eat less else I would put on weight but the mesmerizing smell of the Barbecue makes me fall prey to the temptation. Lassi is my favorite Pakistani drink. I have loved it since my first days in Pakistan.
Q: On China’s 68th National Day which also marks 66 years of Pak-China friendship, what message would you like to give to the people of China?
Long Live Pak-China Friendship! Pakistan is developing very fast, I have witnessed it! Please come to Pakistan to create a new life! Start your new career here! Start your new Business here!