On Friday 10 December in the Chinese capital city of Beijing, the President of the Board of the University of Groningen, Professor Sibrand Poppema, signed the agreement to establish a Confucius Institute in Groningen. Poppema signed on behalf of the three partners: Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, the municipality of Groningen and the University of Groningen.
The signing partner on the Chinese side was Hanban, an organization affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education which aims to promote Chinese culture and language across the world. The Chinese partner of the Groningen Confucius Institute will be the Communication University China.
The institute will be quartered in the city centre at the University of Groningen in the Boteringestraat. Mrs Xuefei Knoester-Cao, currently programme manager at the University’s Office for International Relations, will become the director. The Hanze University Groningen and the municipality of Groningen will provide members of the management team.
Groningen will become the second Dutch city, alongside Leiden, to house such a Chinese cultural institute – there are several hundred Confucius Institutes around the world today.
The institute is intended to meet the rising interest in China and Chinese language and culture in the northern Netherlands and northwest Germany. It is also meant to bolster the economic relationship between China and the northern Netherlands. The institute will therefore organize activities for people with a cultural interest as well as for companies wishing to do business with China. Cultural exchange is also set to take place, involving writers, musicians and artists.
The Hanze University Groningen was where the idea for the institute first took root in 2007. After the Hanze University Groningen, the University of Groningen and the municipality of Groningen had joined together in a foundation, a formal application was submitted to Hanban in June 2010. Hanban is the organization that funds all the Confucius Institutes abroad and supervises their activities. Mayor Peter Rehwinkel had already been apprised of Hanban’s positive reception of the application to found a Groningen Confucius Institute during a visit to China in September.
The Chinese government will support the initiative with a one-off investment grant of USD 150,000. In addition, Hanban will fund important activities of the Groningen Confucius Institute with annual project grants. The municipality of Groningen, the University of Groningen and the Hanze University Groningen will also provide funding. The new institute should be financially self-supporting from 2015.
The signature set by Hanban was a momentous one. Since early 2010, all activities regarding new Confucius Institutes had been frozen. However, the tremendous support found in society and the multifaceted nature of the activities the Groningen Confucius Institute is set to embark upon meant that in Groningen’s case an exception could be made. The Chinese Embassy in The Hague was instrumental in providing support for Groningen.
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