In the afternoon of 18 May 2016, the launch event of the Confucius Institute at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) was held grandly at Bibliothèque Solvay, a famous library in Brussel which was founded in 1904. This new Confucius Institute has two shining points. Firstly, its organizational model is quite special. Different from the normal model of Confucius Institute constructed by three parties, the Hanban, one foreign university and one Chinese university, the VUB Confucius Institute is a cooperation among four parties, including two Chinese universities, the Renmin University of China (RUC) and Sichuan University (SCU). Secondly, its developmental direction is quite new. Taking advantage of the research expertise of three universities, which means the research expertise of the VUB on China and the academic expertise of the RUC and the SCU on Europe (both universities have a “Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence “) the new VUB Confucius Institute will focus more on academic studies about China and the European Union, along with its regular attention on language and cultural education.
The ceremony was hosted by Prof. dr. Jan Cornelis, the VUB Vice-Rector for International Policy. To begin with, Prof. dr. Paul de Knop, the Rector of the VUB, delivered a welcome speech. Then several congratulation speeches were given by representatives of different institutions, including Mr. Dirk Achten, the Secretary General at Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs; Mr. Jianmin Li, the Minister-Counsellor of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union; Mr. Vito Borrelli, the Head of Sector for the Jean Monnet Actions under Erasmus+ in DG Education and Culture. Afterwards, representatives from two founding Chinese universities, Prof. Jianming Zhang, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the university council of RUC, and Prof. Shijing Yan, the Vice-President of SCU, gave their speeches. At last, with the witness of all those speakers and more than 100 guests, the VUB Confucius Institute was officially inaugurated.
The Confucius Institute of VUB comes into being with the development of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. Mrs. Shada Islam, the Director of Policy of Friends of Europe, an influential think-tank in Europe, gave a keynote speech on “China-EU: Mutual Benefit, Strategic Partnership and Comprehensive Cooperation”. In her speech, she reviewed the history and also prospected the future of China-EU relations. Moreover, she highlighted the important role of the new VUB Confucius Institute for the rapprochement between China and Europe.
At the end of the event, the Chinese and the European Director of the VUB Confucius Institute both gave a closing speech. The Chinese Director, Prof. dr. Xinning Song, a well-known expert on European studies from RUC, described the outlook of promoting the research on China and European issues and enhancing the cooperation on Chinese and European universities. The European Director, Prof. dr. Chang Zhu, an outstanding scholar on education from VUB, interpreted the meaning of the experiences and words of Confucius and showed the determination of the VUB Confucius Institute with the traditional Chinese saying “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
Overall, more than 100 guests were invited to this event, including representatives of the four founding institutions, officers from the EU and the Belgium governments, members of the Chinese universities like Fudan University, members of foreign universities like Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), as well as representatives from several think-tanks and companies. During the breaks a Tai Chi group led by the coach of the VUB Confucius Institute and a VUB student playing the traditional Chinese musical instrument Zheng offered entertainment at its best to the audience.