Adelaide on map for Chinese language, culture
South Australia's relationship with China has entered a new phase with the launch of a Confucius Institute at the University of Adelaide by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Alexander Downer.
The non-profit public institute, which will promote the study and understanding of the Chinese language, culture and economy, is expected to strengthen the State's ties with the world's fastest-growing economy.
The Institute is a joint partnership between the University of Adelaide, the Office of Chinese Language Council International (also known as Hanban) and Shandong University.
The Confucius Institute will promote the study and understanding of Chinese language, culture and its economy, as well as other issues relating to China's position in today's world. One of its key aims will be to encourage the teaching of Mandarin in South Australia at all levels - from primary school to university.
The University of Adelaide is one of only three universities in Australia - the others are Western Australia and Melbourne - to be granted the right to establish a Confucius Institute to date.
More than 120 Confucius Institutes around the world have been approved by Hanban.
The establishment of the Confucius Institute in Adelaide is to be partially funded by the Chinese Government, and will be located within the University's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
University of Adelaide Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) Professor John Taplin said the Confucius Institute would become a focal point for South Australia in its increasingly important relationship with China.
"There is growing recognition within Australia of the urgent need to study Asian languages and cultures," Professor Taplin said.
"Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin speaker, is on record as saying this will help to increase trade between Australia and the fastest-growing economies in the world. And the former President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, has voiced his concerns that Australia is not doing enough to learn more about China and Asia."
The specific objectives of different Confucius Institutes vary, but their core function is to teach the Chinese language, train potential language teachers and host academic and cultural activities promoting a better understanding of China.
"The Confucius Institute at the University of Adelaide will also provide information and advice about China to the South Australian business community," Professor Taplin said. "It will help increase our understanding of this globally important culture and economy."
The Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China estimates that, by the year 2010, approximately 100 million people worldwide will be learning Chinese as a foreign language.
Shandong University is located in South Australia's sister city province in China's east, where Confucius himself lived some 2500 years ago. Shandong, which has a population of about 90 million people, celebrated the 20th anniversary of its sister city relationship with South Australia in 2006.
Mr Downer was joined at the official launch last month by the University of Adelaide's Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor James McWha, Shandong University President Professor Zhan Tao, senior representatives from Hanban in Beijing, and the newly appointed Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Mr Zhang Junsai.
Story by Candy Gibson