The Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister in Fiji, Lieutenant Colonel Pio Tikoduadua and the Deputy Director-General of Hanban, Ms Jing Wei unveil the plaque at the opening of the Confucius Institute at USP.
The University of the South Pacific marked the opening of the Confucius Institute at its main Laucala campus in Suva on 6 September, 2012.
Confucius Institutes are non-profit public institutions aligned with the Government of China that aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Permanent Secretary to the Office of the Prime Minister in Fiji, Lieutenant Colonel Pio Tikoduadua said that the opening of the Confucius Institute at USP will enhance the understanding of the Chinese language and culture by the people of Fiji and the South Pacific.
“Students of USP will have an opportunity to learn the Mandarin language and understand the Chinese culture, music and dance in addition to the other studies they are enrolled in. Being an expert in languages other than your official language and mother tongue will be a bonus for students who intend to work at diplomatic institutions or foreign ministries in the future,” he added.
Lieutenant Colonel Pio Tikoduadua, who was also the Chief Guest to the occasion, paid tribute to the positive spirit of partnership and cooperation between China and USP in the establishment of a cultural and learning Institute.
He further acknowledged that the diplomatic relations between Fiji and China which began in 1975 has achieved remarkable results and has deepened in particular with China assisting Fiji in the field of infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and mining.
As part of the opening, a new Confucius statue in front of the Confucius Institute was also unveiled.
The Confucius Institute at USP was established between USP and the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT). After approval from Hanban - Confucius Institute Headquarters of China, BUPT and USP formally reached an agreement in April 2011 to jointly build the Confucius Institute at USP.
In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra expressed the University’s gratitude and appreciation to Hanban and BUPT for their strong support and for their collaboration in this initiative.
The Confucius Institute at USP is actually the first of its kind in Fiji as well as in the region.
“We are very honoured to host the first Confucius Institute in the South Pacific region,” he added.
Given China’s increasing influence in the Pacific, Professor Chandra explained that it is therefore desirable for USP staff and students to develop competence in the Chinese language and to develop a deep understanding and appreciation of the Chinese culture, in order to be well-equipped to engage strongly and effectively with China and the sizeable Chinese diaspora internally.
He announced plans to build the Confucius Institute at USP into a multi-level organisation that will provide educational and teaching services in the Chinese language and culture in the South Pacific.
“We also aim to make it a model of excellence amongst the Confucius Institutes worldwide.”
By the end of 2010, 322 Confucius Institutes and 369 Confucius classrooms had been established in 96 countries and regions around the world.
While cultural exchanges between China and the South Pacific have been vigorous and fruitful, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Fiji, His Excellency Mr Huang Yong believes that further promotion of mutual exchanges and learning will bring them even closer.
He pointed out the new Confucius Institute will be a bridge in promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese people and the people of the South Pacific.
The Ambassador said that the birth of the Confucius Institute at USP is a satisfying result of great efforts from all parties concerned.
Both the Deputy Director-General of Hanban, Ms Jing Wei and the Vice President of BUPT, Professor Ren Xiaomin were full of praise for USP for the establishment of the Confucius Institute.
Professor Ren Xiaomin emphasized the important role Confucius had on the Chinese education system.
"This is another step towards increased relations between our countries.”
"BUPT will strive to develop and promote more development programs between our institutions," he assured.
Currently, there are six staff members based at the USP Confucius Institute.
After the opening ceremony, delegates from China and Fiji were given a tour of the Confucius Institute building at USP.