2015: UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange

2015 marque l’année du 40ème anniversaire des relations entre l’Europe et la Chine. Pour cette occasion, de nombreux évènements culturels sont à l’ordre du jour en Europe. Cela est notamment le cas chez nos voisins les Anglais, qui célèbrent l’année culturelle Chine-Grande-Bretagne.


2015 is an important date for UK-China relations, because this event is the first ever bilaterally agreed UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange. During the UK-China Summit in London last June, the two governments decided that the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange would be a two-time event: it will showcase the very best of UK culture in China from March until July, and then of Chinese culture in the UK from July until the end of the year.


Nearly 30 UK projects will be presented in China, according to Nick Marchant, the art director of the British Council. They are focused in 5 main cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Wuhan. Led by the Ministry of Culture, a series of innovative, contemporary, multi-disciplinary and adventurous works are awaited, with digital media as the main theme. “We use that term quite broadly, it’s not just about the next generation of people. We are talking about the next generation of audiences, next generation of artists, next generation of delivery when it comes to the arts”, Marchant said.


The Duke of Cambridge Prince William officially launched the Year of Cultural Exchange during his first journey ever in China in March. He dotted the eye of a sculpture of Shaun the Sheep – one of Aardman Animation’s most famous characters – to show the recognition of the Chinese year of the Sheep; but also as a symbolic gesture: referring to this same act in a traditional Chinese lion dance, in order to bring good luck and happiness to this Year of cultural exchange.

One can surely assume that this year will stimulate more collaboration in the creative industries of both the UK and China, which have a huge cultural legacy. It will promote dialogue and mutual learning, expertise sharing and the understanding of a different culture. The GREAT Festival of creativity from the 2nd to the 4th of March did not only show UK innovation in sectors such as fashion, luxury retail, health and technologies, but it also marked the beginning of a real cooperation in the film industry, with the ratification of a landmark film co-production treaty, or the coming British film festival in June in Wuhan.

In the education and research sectors, it is a huge asset for the two countries. 100,000 Chinese students are currently studying in British schools. And 10,000 more will be sent by the Chinese government over the next five years, while the UK will send 80,000 students to China by 2020. So this year will highly contribute to the already very dynamic exchange of students between the countries, where teaching English in Chinese schools and Mandarin in schools across the UK is continuously encouraged. 

Finally, this cultural exchange is also expected to improve the harmony between the two countries and to have positive political and economic consequences. With the first visit of a royal family member since Elizabeth II in 1986, Prince William also used his journey to deliver an invitation from Her Majesty the Queen to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, to attend a state visit to the UK later this year. Some business talks about investments and shares, creating corporate partnerships, in the creative industries in particular, have already started. It undoubtedly reinforces the economic relations between the countries, who will try to make the most of this year.

Massis PAPAZIAN & Julie TO


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