Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) greatly contributes to boosting cultural interaction and exchange as well as mutual understanding and respect of differences among participants, a Chinese scholar told to a local news agency in an interview.

“Culture plays an important role in the BRI as cultural exchange is the foundation through which multinational cooperation can be strengthened in all aspects,” said Rong Yueming, director of Literature Institute of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS).

Rong’s remarks came during his recent visit to the Chinese Cultural Center in Cairo.

He stressed that the cultural exchange has become “a global trend.”

Proposed by China in 2013, the BRI refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa through the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.

The Chinese senior researcher, who also served as chief editor of the 2019 Shanghai Cultural Development Report compiled by SASS, explained that cultural exchange can be done through communication, which is a two-way process for China.

“The first is to spread the true image of the Chinese culture for a better understanding of China, and the second is to gather different cultures under the umbrella of a common initiative that boosts cultural interaction and mutual understanding, which is done through the BRI,” Rong pointed out.

Rong, also co-editor of the 500-page book entitled “Cultural Industries in Shanghai,” said that the cultural dimension of the BRI seeks to emphasise respect for the histories, cultures and civilisations of all countries in the world, particularly those taking part in the initiative.

“Cooperation among BRI participants is based on the principle of respect of all cultural differences in implementation of the concepts of shared destiny for humanity and cultural exchange,” he added.

During his visit to Cairo, Rong gave a lecture at the Chinese Culture Center on “the Chinese cultural journey,” after which he signed an agreement for strategic cooperation between his SASS and the centre.

Last Saturday, the Chinese Tourism and Cultural Week kicked off at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo as one of several Chinese-Egyptian cultural activities held throughout the year.

Rong said that the Chinese-Egyptian cultural exchange is very important because of Egypt’s influential position in both Africa and the Arab world.

“China attaches great importance to cultural exchange with Egypt, which helps in deepening mutual understanding between the two countries and promoting cooperation of China, Africa and the Arab world,” he said.

Since the BRI was launched in 2013, China has been working hard on bringing BRI related countries and organisations together through joint cultural activities, mostly involving developing countries.

A total of 108 documents were signed between China and BRI participants from 2013 to 2018, involving bilateral cooperation in culture and tourism, according to a report by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Growing cooperation among cultural organisations in the BRI participants led to the establishment of international alliances of theaters, museums, art festivals and libraries such as the International Alliance of Museums of the Silk Road and the Silk Road International League of Theaters.

“Through deepening cultural exchange among the increasing BRI participants, the voices of developing countries for independent development … have become louder,” Rong said.

He explained that the BRI helps in promoting a new model of global cultural exchange and communication based on mutual respect, equality, win-win partnership, joint development and collective work.

“Everyone is proud of their own culture. If we respect the values and cultures of each other, the whole world will be in harmony,” the Chinese researcher said.