Festival celebrates China-Africa ties

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When Zhang Heyi, an Amharic (official language of Ethiopia) major at Beijing Foreign Studies University, was invited to participate in events to mark Africa Day in May, she sang and danced with her African counterparts on campus. Although she didn't know about their musical instruments or songs, she just couldn't help dancing with them and enjoying the celebration.

"African people can be attracted by hanfu, or traditional Chinese garments, and Chinese people can also be attracted by African dance," said Zhang, one of the Chinese youth representatives who was invited to attend a forum as part of the 6th China-Africa Youth Festival. "Culture can intensely touch people, and strike a chord among different countries. It helps build intimacy, develop trust and works as a bridge for communication."

Organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, the festival, as a platform for communication between Chinese and African youths, was held in Beijing from Oct 19 to 22. The festival includes various activities like visiting exhibitions, attending forums, watching films and taking part in a series of events to experience traditional Chinese culture. Forty-five young people from 44 African countries, as well as Chinese youth representatives, took part in the activities.

"As the participants and contributors of China-Africa cooperation, young people are also the beneficiaries, inheritors and driving force of China-Africa relations," Baba Ahmad Jidda, Nigeria's ambassador to China, said in a video broadcast at the opening ceremony of the festival. "The young people today are more optimistic than ever before.

"Involving them at the forefront as active participants, with more than a decorative role, and not just on the fringes of dialogue can lead to development and progress when they see how impactful their actions and opinions are," he adds.

According to participating guest Li Hongfeng, dean of the School of African Studies of Beijing Foreign Studies University, China and Africa have a common awareness of the value of young people, and they both issue policies to promote their development. "In the global tide of the 21st century, with the joint efforts of governments and people across the world, young people now have a broader stage for their performances," he says.

As a university teacher, he finds young Chinese people have intense interest in African countries. "I started to open a selective course at BFSU last year about African culture and identity, and students rushed to select it. Some complained that the course was too popular and they could not get in," says Li.

"On the other hand, many of my students are working in African countries. They often share their opinions on African development and cooperation between China and Africa, and their love for Africa with me through WeChat (a popular social networking app in China)."

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