BEIJING, Dec. 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a special event for all Chinese learners and enthusiasts in Saudi Arabia, as they have just received a reply letter from Xi.
In the letter of reply to representatives of Chinese language learners in Saudi Arabia, the Chinese leader encouraged Saudi youths to learn Chinese well and make new contributions to strengthening China–Saudi Arabia and China-Arab friendship.
At present, both Chinese people and Saudi people are working hard to realize their great dreams. Learning each other’s language and understanding each other’s history and culture will help promote mutual understanding and forge closer bonds between the people of the two countries, and also contribute to building a human community with a shared future, Xi said.
Memory to cherish for a lifetime
Students majoring in Chinese in Saudi Arabia told the Global Times that they felt very encouraged after reading Xi’s letter to them. “We wanted to write a letter to welcome the arrival of President Xi and to show him the results of our Chinese learning,” said Nada Saad Hussain Al Sulaiman, a sophomore majoring in business Chinese at the Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University.
“I didn’t expect President Xi to be able to read our letter and reply to us when he was so busy. This is a great honor for me and a precious memory to cherish for a lifetime,” she told the Global Times.
Nada is one of the students who co-authored the letter to Xi. In early October, more than 100 young Chinese learners and enthusiasts spontaneously decided to pen a letter collectively to the Chinese leader after learning from media reports that In the letter, young Saudi representatives warmly welcomed President Xi’s visit, shared their feelings regarding learning Chinese and about China, and expressed their desire to learn even more about the country. At the same time, the same group of young Saudis affirmed their commitment to becoming ambassadors of friendship, dedicated to promoting ties between China and Saudi Arabia, and the entire Arab world.
Noting that language is the best key to understanding a country, Xi said he is sincerely glad that the youths have learned about a colorful, multi-dimensional and comprehensive China through learning Chinese and participating in the “Chinese Bridge” exchange program.
Youth breeds infinite hope and the younger generation is the future of China–Saudi Arabia and China-Arab friendship, said the Chinese president, expressing his hope that the students will cherish the good times and study hard in order to make new contributions to enhancing the friendship between the Chinese and Saudis as well as between the Chinese and the Arabs in general.
Xi said the students are welcomed to visit China where they can enhance mutual understanding and develop a long-term friendship with Chinese youths so as to jointly create a better future for China–Saudi Arabia and China-Arab relations.
“I will definitely keep in mind President Xi’s expectations for us, live up to my time, study hard, and contribute to the enhancement of the China–Saudi Arabia friendship,” said Nada, emphasizing she wishes President Xi good health and to see him continue to lead China to prosperity and strength.
Booming Chinese language enthusiasm
Since the two countries agreed to upgrade their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership during President Xi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016, bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields have continued to expand and the enthusiasm of the Saudi people to learn Chinese and understand China has also grown.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud decided to include the Chinese language in the curriculum at all stages of learning including at universities in the Gulf kingdom in 2019, as part of his new vision for the education sector as outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030. The decision was reached as Prince Mohammed led a high-level delegation to Beijing with an aim to boost the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Saudi Arabia. Since then, more universities and schools in Saudi Arabia have begun to teach Chinese.
Nada, 35, is a mother of three children. Though this is remarkable, her journey to Chinese learning has been full of challenges as she has to attend school while taking care of her family. Against this backdrop of surging “Chinese language fever,” she decided to “seize the opportunity” and her family also expressed support to her.
As Saudi society gradually relaxes restrictions on women, the opportunities for women to join the country’s labor force have also increased.
Young Saudi people’s interest in and curiosity for China are growing ever bigger. Nada said many daily necessities in Saudi Arabians’ daily life are made in China, and China is closely linked to Saudi people’s lives. “China is an ancient civilization with a long history, which is remote and mysterious to us. I want to learn Chinese to learn more interesting stories and long-standing culture in China. I want to see China, as President Xi said, to learn about a colorful, comprehensive, and three-dimensional China,” Nada told the Global Times.
Ahmed Sulaiman Salim Alhayfani, a junior majoring in Chinese at the King Abdulaziz University, who is also among the authors of the letter to Xi, told the Global Times that learning Chinese has helped him open the door to understanding China, which not only offers opportunities for him to learn about China’s long history and culture, but has also changed his destiny. The 20-year-old young man was born into an ordinary family of seven children in the port city Jeddah, western Saudi Arabia. He won the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese proficiency competition for university students held for the first time in Saudi Arabia this July and became the first Saudi Arabian student to be awarded the International Chinese Language Teachers Scholarship.
He told the Global Times that in order to master Chinese, he keeps repeating the teachers’ words and imitates them in Chinese classes. He often goes to Chinese restaurants to learn about Chinese food culture and watches Chinese movies. “I have been curious about China since I was a kid. I hope to study in China as soon as possible, to see what China is with my own eyes,” he said. Ahmed hopes to become a diplomat and contribute to the China–Saudi Arabia friendship.
Ali Alasmari, another author of the letter and senior majoring in Chinese at the King Saud University, also felt excited and inspired by Xi’s reply letter. He noted in the interview with Global Times that cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia has achieved particularly fruitful results in recent years as China has helped the Gulf state to build many projects including the Mecca light rail and the Riyadh Metro. “Saudi Arabians are looking East, and so will other Arab countries. It’s hoped that China’s development will bring development to Saudi Arabia. With more Saudis learning Chinese, there has been a surging ‘Chinese language fever’ here,” Ali said.
Leading to deeper ties
“President Xi’s letter to Chinese learners in Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly a great inspiration for them, and will bring positive encouragement,” Shao Yang, a teacher from the Beijing Language and Culture University now teaching Chinese at the Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University, told the Global Times. Shao noted that the importance the leaders of the two countries have attached to Chinese language education is the driving force of the rapid development of Chinese learning in Saudi Arabia and Xi’s letter has injected new impetus to the people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries.
Saudi students expressed their eager anticipation for Xi’s visit in interviews with the Global Times. “I expect Xi’s visit to promote the further development of bilateral relations, bring more opportunities for young people to communicate, and encourage young people of the two countries to learn each other’s languages and enhance communication and exchanges,” Ahmed said.
Li Bowen, Ahmed’s Chinese language teacher at the King Abdulaziz University and deputy director of the Chinese Proficiency Test Center in Riyadh, believes Xi’s reply letter shows people the deepening friendship between China and Saudi Arabia.
According to Li, since 2019 when the Crown Prince announced the inclusion of the Chinese language in Saudi Arabia’s national school curriculum, Saudi learning institutions have successively launched Chinese courses or majors, leading to a growing number of Chinese learners in the country and propelling the rapid development of Chinese language teaching.
In just three years, Saudi Arabia has held many activities such as the “Chinese Bridge” Chinese proficiency competition for university students and the “Chinese Bridge” Winter Camp under the theme “Contemporary Silk Road, Colorful China.”
Professor Chen Ming teaches Chinese at the King Saud University. He told the Global Times that Xi’s letter will definitely arouse strong positive reactions among Saudi university students and even across the whole country. “Sinophilia in Saudi Arabia will surely hit a new climax, which will help promote the in-depth development of bilateral relations,” Chen said.
A Saudi Arabian educator at King Saud University who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Global Times that now the language department of the university is overwhelmed with requests. “Now we see more people learning Chinese and more people wanting to learn Chinese. When you learn a language, you will realize that cultures are connected and relationships are well bridged,” he said.
Saudi Arabia plays a pivotal role in the Arab world. It’s expected that Saudi Arabia’s Chinese language fever will set in motion a domino effect in the entire Arab world, elevating China-Arab people-to-people and cultural exchanges to a new level, Li noted.