A Panel discussion in The First Belt & Road Sinology and Cultural Development Forum underscored the significant role that Intercultural Communication is playing in securing sound and sustainable development of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

The group session, organised by the Beijing Language and Culture University this week on January 7, in the Chinese capital, covered a variety of topics regarding intercultural connections among countries involved in the BRI.

The subjects were divided into several sub-categories, such as, historical illustration for the evolution of sinology, cultural conservation and intercommunication, distorted or hallucinated State images, that were felt to have resulted particularly from overestimated evaluations towards western society, along with the essential role of translation and interpretation in cross-cultural communication and interconnectivity.

In his 15 minute long presentation, Wang Yinquan, a Professor from the Nanjing Agricultural University, introduced the history of Modern Sinology.

Unlike the Missionary sinology notably promoted by Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Polish Missionary Michal Boym (1612-1659), during the Great Era of Navigation, modern sinology free of religious influence was founded by Jean-Pierre Abel-Remusa, a French scholar from the College de France, on December 11, 1814.

“His Chinese Studies laid a solid foundation for the evolution of sinology as a modern academic discipline,” Wang said.

While recalling the parade at the 70th Anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China on October 1, 2019, when 2,000 young ethnic students from the Minzu University of China (MUC) formed a square, Mark Levine, the American sinologist who taught at MUC and witnessed the whole practice, showed his appreciation of China’s ethnic unity.

“The students coming from all across the land, from every Chinese nationality, study with each other and are proud of their own culture,” he said while addressing the panel discussion.

He said, some overseas scholars asked him whether conflicts were inevitable in a campus where students from different ethnic groups live and study together.

However, to their surprise, Levine’s answer was negative. He said, insofar as he had observed, there had been no such conflicts.

“They [the students] represent the future of their country, united. Diversity will make their common future better, showing, although with differences, that all can get along,” he said, “The Minzu University of China is an example of building a ‘community of a shared future’.”

Finnish sinologist Fred Dervin echoed Levine’s remarks, saying that the case of the MUC encouraged scholars to think about interculturality from a different perspective.

“So MUC could be an option, and obviously, like all policies, like all intellectual discourses about diversity, it is multi-faceted.”

When talking about interculturality, Dervin compared the public opinions between China and Finland, which, according to him, were rather imbalanced.

“When I’m in Finland, I hear lots of criticisms about China, but when I’m in China I don’t actually see the point of these criticisms. However, when I’m in China I see a lot of beautiful discourses about Finland. Everybody loves Finland and I don’t know why.”

To substantiate his point, Dervin told of a conversation between himself and a Chinese school principal who told Dervin that Finland had the best education system in the world.

However, when Dervin asked how many times the principal had visited Finland, he answered: “never”, adding that he learned it from a domestic television program. Yet, Dervin said this view was far from true.

During recent years, the promotion of intercultural communication has been accompanied often by an exploration of traditions

In Japanese Sinologist Teruyuki Kubo’s 10 minute representation, he demonstrated a Japanese customary meal: the porridge with seven herbs.

Each year, the Japanese people take it in the hope of living a longer life.

However, according to Kubo, the practice was first introduced from China, where there was a story about a Chinese emperor seeking longevity.

He abdicated his supreme power and turned to cultivated farmland.

However, the most interesting thing was the recipes the former emperor received from the divine to make the porridge coincided with the ingredients recorded in one of Japan’s official publications on Chinese medicine in medieval times, an era marking the mutual communication between the two neighbouring Asian countries.