By Wang Yufan
A book is like a garden carried in the pocket, goes an old saying,” remarked Dr. Joefe B. Santarita, dean of the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman, at the unveiling ceremony of the China Book Center at the UP Asian Center. “Just like a garden, there are many amazing things and ideas waiting to be discovered in the book, and how interesting things are found in the garden of knowledge depends on the reader. The generous donation of 1,000 titles of books by China International Publishing Group to the UP Asian Center has transformed the China Book Center into the garden of gardens waiting for students, scholars, and observers to utilize its resources.”
‘Garden of Gardens’
On March 18, the unveiling ceremony of the China Book Center was held at the Asian Center of UP Diliman. Distinguished guests attending the event included Dr. Michael L. Tan, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Tan Qingsheng, chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, Chen Shi, deputy editor-in-chief of China International Publishing Group (CIPG) and president of China Report Press, and Dr. Joefe B. Santarita, dean of the UP Asian Center. These figures jointly cut the ribbon for the inauguration of the China Book Center. Faculty and students of the UP, local people from all walks of life with enthusiasm for Chinese culture and reporters from Chinese and Philippine mainstream media organizations attended the ceremony and witnessed this important milestone of cooperation between the two countries.
When addressing the unveiling ceremony, Chancellor Tan expressed appreciation to CIPG and the Chinese Embassy for their generous donation that made the China Book Center at UP a reality. “I think this is a good start and hope online access to Chinese books can be achieved as soon as possible,” he noted. “China Book Center not only benefits the UP Asian Center but is significant to all of UP and even beyond the campus. Its establishment will further help Filipinos better understand China—not just its history and culture—but its contemporary development.”
Chargé d’affaires Tan Qingsheng illustrated, “Good bilateral relations between nations can only be based on good understanding and friendship between the peoples. It is a pity that even though we are so close geographically, our mindsets are sometimes quite distant. A lot of young people in the Philippines have never been to China. Their knowledge of China is limited or sometimes even biased by Western media.” China Book Center is expected to provide young Filipinos, who are the hope of future relations between China and the Philippines, with a window to glimpse a more complete picture of China and give them insight on China’s history, culture and development, enabling them to become ambassadors of friendship and cooperation between the two countries, the diplomat added.
“The China Book Center is committed to exhibiting genuine Chinese culture to Filipino readers as it plays a positive role in promoting China-Philippines friendship and talent training,” declared CIPG Deputy Editor-in-Chief Chen Shi in a speech at the ceremony. “We hope that through a variety of cultural activities such as book launches, readings and Chinese language lectures, the China Book Center at UP will build a bridge for friendly exchange between people of the two countries.” She stressed that the inauguration of the China Book Center at UP heralded a new high in cultural exchange between China and the Philippines. She also called for people in both countries to become friends through books and join hands to forge a brighter future of friendship and common development.
On behalf of CIPG, Chen presented 1,000 volumes of books to the UP China Book Center in four categories: China’s governance, contemporary China, Chinese culture and arts and Chinese language learning.
China and the Philippines have maintained friendly ties for more than 2,000 years. In more recent terms, the past few years brought sustained improvement and growth of bilateral relations. As China emerges as the top trading partner and second largest tourist source of the Philippines, there is increasing need to enhance communication to help the Filipinos better understand China and enable the Chinese experience to be shared with the Philippines.
UP is one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines with a history of over a hundred years, and it has always maintained close ties with China. The UP Asian Center, established in 1955 to conduct research for advancement and promotion of studies on Asia, has been enthusiastic about promoting Chinese language teaching and spreading Chinese culture. It has launched academic exchange programs with several Chinese universities and organized various cultural exchange activities.
The new China Book Center is the second of its kind established in an ASEAN country following the first at Bangkok University in Thailand. The establishment of China Book Centers is intended to use books as cultural carriers to introduce China’s outstanding culture and contemporary development to readers around the world and provide the international community with a genuine insight into China. It is a major project launched by CIPG under the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in the field of press and publication it signed with the Philippines’ Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in 2017 in Beijing, as witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Since the signing of the MOU, positive progress has been made in media cooperation and exchanges between the two sides. CIPG has launched content collaboration with The Philippine Star while continuing its annual efforts to invite media representatives from the Philippines and other ASEAN member states to visit China for journalistic purposes. In May 2018, CIPG hosted the first China ASEAN Media Cooperation Forum in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi.
During a recent meeting between representatives from CIPG and PCOO in Manila, both sides reached consensus on further advancing media cooperation through various channels. Marvin R. Gatpayat, undersecretary for legal affairs at PCOO, expressed appreciation to CIPG for the great support it has rendered to the development of the Philippines’ communications sector and the hope that the two sides will strengthen exchange and expand information sharing to elevate bilateral collaboration to a higher level.
CIPG Deputy Editor-in-Chief Chen Shi shared similar aspirations, announcing, “Under the framework of the MOU, there is immense potential for both sides to expand cooperation in content publication and exchange, innovate cooperation methods, and boost collaboration in areas such as social media communication, think tank exchange, publication collaboration, personnel exchange and bilateral and multilateral events.”