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Visiting China

Culture | Wednesday, 17 August 2011 | sundanesecorner.org

Hawé Setiawan

A tower and skyscrapers in Guangzhou (Photograph: Hawe Setiawan/SC)

WHEN we arrived at Guangzhou International Airport, July 1st, the Communist Party of China (CPC) was celebrating its ninetieth anniversary. This was merely a coincidence. We ourselves did not realize it at first. The atmosphere just came into our senses when we saw a red banner demonstrating hammer and sickle logo stretched across the facade of a classy building not far from the prestigious Xinghai Concert Hall.

Despite the celebration, China seemed to live its life as usual. Shopping and tourism were relentlessly held along Beijing Lu. Colourful ferries came and went, conveying tourists along the Pearl River in evening. Shenzhen had been rapidly developing itself as ‘special economic zone’ for the last three decades. Hong Kong, as a ‘special administrative region’, remained on her path with the right steering wheel, unlike her main land that held the left one. This is the country that, especially since the time of Deng Xiao Ping, has become ‘a single nation with two systems.’

The country that is populated by some 1.3 billion people, some 80 million of which are registered as a member of the CPC, is still busy doing his business. Prestigious projects are not forgotten, such as building facilities and infrastructures for the coming universiade. China is not merely skilled in rubbing jade, but also powerful in determining geopolitical affairs. Although President Hu Jintao sounds a little bit gloomy with elitist and corrupt tendencies among the members of his party nowadays, the Red Dragon plays a lot of actions.

We visited China within the framework of a programme undertaken by the Faculty of Arts and Letters, Pasundan University. We had previously won a sort of competition organized by the Directorate General of Higher Education in proposing a performing programme to be staged abroad. After winning the competition, preparations were made for several months to produce a performance depicting the colourful cultures of Indonesia.

While undertaking the programme, we could see several ways for establishing and developing bilateral relations, especially among the people of both countries. Certainly, for developing people to people relations, culture could be of significant value.  

Prof. Cheng and the Bahasa

IN the afternoon, July 2nd, we visited the main campus of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) in Guangzhou. Laid out on a mountain foot, under the shade of leafy tall trees overgrown around, the campus was really beautiful. The extent of it was 63 hectares. That’s just one among the four campuses it has. The largest campus, in the southern part of the city, has an extent of 73 acres. Some 250,000 students study there. GDUFS is undoubtedly one of the leading universities in the country.

Prof. Cai Jin Cheng greeted us at the campus gates. He spoke Indonesian fluently, full of smiles and laughter. He is the Chairman of the Indonesian Studies at GDUFS. The Guangzhou-born Chinese national introduced himself as Gunawan. Learners of Indonesian in China have a sort of practice to dub themselves with Indonesian names. Among Prof. Cheng’s students, for instance, there is Chandra and even Arjuna.

Chinese enthusiasm for learning Indonesian language and culture, of course, has been long lasting. In 1940s Nanjing, the most important city in the era of the Kuomintang, for instance, there were schools of foreign languages that taught, among others, Indonesian language. Although since 1970, following the bloody political succession in Jakarta, Indonesia-China relations had been frozen, the Chinese leaders like Mao Zedong or Chou En-lai maintained that the Indonesian language needs to be continuously studied. Since the 1990s, as diplomatic relations between the two countries began to improve, the enthusiasm has been increasingly developed.

The Indonesian Studies at GDUFS was opened in the second half of 1970. Prof. Cheng was one of the first students that was graduated from the programme. Now some 80 students are studying Indonesian in undergraduate level. Divided into four classes, each class consists of 20 to 25 students.

‘I think Indonesian is lovely. The language is very nice, very pleasant to hear, and not too difficult to master or learn. Indonesian is also very important, very useful, because Indonesia is a great nation. It has many populations. Besides, both China and Indonesia are in the stage of growth,’ said Prof. Cheng.

According to Professor Cheng, Indonesian programme graduates generally work in sectors that rely on Indonesian language, both as civil servants and as private employees. And the best graduates work at Chinese Embassy in Indonesia.

Indonesia – China

In Monday, July 4th, the intention for developing people to people relations of both countries seemed to have come into a certain phase. That day, at GDUFS campus, the Indonesian Studies Centre was officially opened. Consul General of Indonesia in Guangzhou Edi Yusuf, along with his Indonesian colleagues, attended the event.

It’s just an institution, of course. No less important is, certainly, creating a programme to developed within such institution. Such institutions could be operated for developing cooperation in the field of research, teaching, translation, and cultural promotion.

Perhaps, such attempts help confirm the growing development of recent diplomatic relations between Indonesia and China. It is worth noting that in September 2010 President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Shanghai, while Vice President Boediono visited Nanning. It is rarely that during a month held two visits of state leaders from the same country. Not to mention more than 30 times of ministerial visits from Indonesia to China during that year.

For China itself, Indonesia is certainly an important partner. Among ASEAN countries, Indonesia is undoubtedly the largest. As a country that emphasizes its economy on the activities of exporting industrial goods, sustained by rigorous planning and a strong bureaucracy, China must look at Indonesia as a major opportunity for developing markets. As for Indonesia, China at least provides various lessons of how to cultivate the so-called core values such as discipline, thrift, hard work, and innovation.

‘Comrades and friends, over the past 90 years, Chinese Communists and the people of all ethnic groups in China have, through indomitable struggles, achieved major successes in revolution, development and reform. Today, a vibrant socialist China has emerged in the East, and the 1.3 billion Chinese people are forging ahead full of confidence under the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,’ said President Hu Jintao in the CPC’s birthday celebration.

These high-flown words seemed to be with us on the way home from Hong Kong to Jakarta. However, as we arrived at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Saturday afternoon, July 9th, we saw a completely different reality.***

(The Indonesian version of this article was issued in Sunday edition of Pikiran Rakyat daily newspaper, 24 July 2011)



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