In recent years, China has conducted cultural exchanges with other countries on a large scale. So far, China has reached government cultural agreements with 143 countries and signed 700 plans for annual cultural exchanges. Every year the Ministry of Culture authorizes 2,000 cultural exchange programs with 60 to 70 countries involving some 30,000 participants.
"Culture weeks," "culture tours," "culture festivals," "culture years" and other events hosted jointly by China and overseas counterparts have deepened contact and understanding between peoples and offered new channels for equal dialogue between different civilizations.
"China-France Culture Year" spanned two years and lowered its curtain in China at the end of 2005. This great event in the history of Sino-European cultural exchange was the largest such activity undertaken in the lifetime of the People's Republic. The event raised Sino-French and Sino-EU relations to a new height. Encouraged by the example, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Greece have also suggested co-hosting a "Culture Year."
On October 1, 2005, the "Festival of China," jointly organized by China's Ministry of Culture and the US John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center, was launched in Washington DC. The center had never before hosted an event covering such a wide field in such great depth, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post. In October, "China Tianjin Week" took place in the Italian cities of Rome, Milan and Naples, showcasing China's culture, economy, tourism and sports, and in the Netherlands the "China Festival of Culture and Art" was held in Amsterdam and the Hague, attracting over 70,000 visitors with 100-odd activities.
Meanwhile, the annual Shanghai International Art Festival, the Beijing International Music Festival and the Beijing International Drama have international appeal to the arts world. In recent years, world-ranking arts groups from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Israel, Russia, Canada and Britain have put China on their itinerary.
Cultural exchanges with other countries have given Chinese artistes access to the world stage. Apart from the gold medal performances of Chinese acrobats in international competition, artistes from other fields Ð ballet dancers, vocal and instrumental music performers for instance Ð have also been carrying home many international first prizes.
China will host the culture-themed "Russia Year" in 2006. During the second Sino-Arabian Cooperation Forum ministerial meeting, a major festival of Arabian art will be held in China. The Second Art Festival of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member countries and the "Italy Culture Year" will be held in China, and in Europe the "Festival of China" will take place in Hamburg and Rome.