Cultural exchanges are crucial for Chinese and African people to understand each other and for the two sides to further consolidate their relations, a South African scholar has said.
People-to-people exchanges should be a priority in China-Africa relations since the two sides need to better understand each other's culture, history and even law, David Monyae, co-director of the Confucius Institute at University of Johannesburg, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Established in 2016, the Confucius Institute at University of Johannesburg is the youngest of its kind in South Africa.
There is a growing interest among the young people in Africa to know more about China, said the co-director, who also underlined the need for direct exchanges between the Chinese and African people.
"There were a lot of reports that we heard in the past about China, but they were not told to Africans by Chinese, but by Westerners, who dominated the media," said Monyae, also an expert on international relations and foreign policy.
"There's a danger if the picture you are shown is not true," he said. "But people now are growing much more aware that they want to know China from the Chinese people. So it is also the mission of our institute to serve as a bridge for that."
Besides teaching the Chinese language and culture, Monyae's institute is also doing research on topics like China-Africa relations and BRICS cooperation.
"Other things also come to us that are Western-driven, like telling the negative things about China, even about the Confucius Institute," he said. "But we are independent people. We don't have room for anyone to tell us who should be our friends. We choose the best and those who respect us."
Africans also need to be better understood in China, said Monyae.
The South African expert expressed the hope that media organizations in both China and African countries could have more ordinary people tell their own stories.
In addition, exchanges over poetry, music, drama, theater and sports can further strengthen the cultural link between Chinese and Africans, he said.
Monyae also referred to "Ubuntu," an African philosophy that he believes is "not far from Confucianism" as both of them emphasize caring and sharing.
"In Ubuntu, we believe that 'I am because of you,' which means I cannot exist in your absence. Your well-being is good for me as well. For me to get peace in my life, I have to make sure that my neighbor is not hungry and there's peace in my neighbor's house," Monyae explained.
"We are a caring civilization. There is the need to remember and carry on our own philosophy and learn from other philosophies. That is also why we have interest in Confucianism," he added.