Johannes Ebert im März 2013
Rede von Johannes Ebert im Rahmen der Veranstaltung Strategic Partnership

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

it is with enormous pleasure that I accepted your invitation to welcome you at this 4th research panel of the “2nd workshop on Europe-China Relations on Global Politics”. This panel is entitled “Diplomacy from below? EU-China People-to-People-Exchange” and as Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut I would be happy to contribute to your reflections in a very pragmatic way: Culture and education are the central platform where people meet each other. The Goethe-Institut with its wordwide 149 institutes and a large network of partner institution serves as such a platform for over 60 years.

First of all I am satisfied to realize that the EU has definitely recognized the importance of cultural relations between its institutions and China. Lately the EXPERT GROUP ON CULTURE AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS – CHINA finished its report on a strategy for cultural relations, introducing - I quote - “a strategy-setting process… with the intention of proposing a strategic vision for the future of EU-China cultural relations in the context of an evolving EU-China strategic partnership, which was recently enhanced by the establishment of the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue”. The report gives a whole range of possible fields of action for common ground: “The implementation of a strategic approach to EU-China cultural relations shall be based on a flexible and open approach. While mutual interests and opportunities can potentially arise in all cultural and creative sectors, emerging areas of mutual interest at a first stage include: EU-China film co-production; production and commercialisation of TV formats; games (in particular online games and smartphone applications, which are less sensitive to piracy); music (especially live music performances); animation; themed entertainment; architecture; design; cultural merchandising; heritage (in particular linked to urban sustainable development); museums (in particular as regards cultural content development and management); contemporary arts events and festivals. In all these areas, there is a need on both the European and Chinese side to support the development of professional skills and build capacity through training, peer-learning, the exchange of best practices and networking”.

It was especially the purpose of networking and building capacity that the Goethe-Institut in China initiated the publication of the “Europe-China Cultural Compass” which has been realized together with our colleges from the British Council and the Danish Institute here in Beijing. Especially the glossary raised a lot of attention because it put the emphasis on different semantics of intercultural terms and it showed the burden of intercultural encounter: Do we mean the same when we say the same? Within the network of the European National Institutes of Culture – EUNIC - the European colleges organized 4 “Europe-China Dialogues” the last 4 years with the China Academy of Arts in different European and Chinese cities. Regular events are organized by EUNIC China with its Chinese counterparts. Under the lead of the Goethe-Institut a consortium of international independent experts from the Institut Français, the European Cultural Foundation and other partners had been recently mandated by the European Commission to conduct a “Preparatory Action on Culture in the EU External Relation” which is truly not focused on China but emphasizes again the potential of culture – and this means people-to-people-exchange – as a clue for EU external relations.

Ladies and gentleman – as European citizen we are aware that it is time to overcome national concepts of culture within this globalized world. This does not mean to neglect one own traditions but on the contrary to be aware of the richness of one’s own heritage. This is only my fourth day on a visit through China but traveling through different regions I am already aware of the strength of diversity of this country. I am overwhelmed by the knowledge of the Chinese people about our European culture as well as I am ashamed about how less we do know about historical and modern China. Two figures about students in our countries: In 2012 24.000 Chinese students studied at German universities, in the same year 4.000 German students were enrolled at Chinese universities. These young people play a very important role for he dialogue between our countries.

Without burdening the culture – especially the arts – too many political aspects, I do believe that the impact as cultural players through the facilitation of people-to-people-exchange has not only been crucial for the last decades ( and as the oldest foreign cultural institute in China that celebrates its 25th birthday this year we are allowed to say so) but will also the next years to come serve as platform for better understanding and dialogue. And if there is one lesson we have learnt from the reconciliation process between France and Germany which started 50 years ago then it is this: To strengthen the personal side of encounters will make us even more independent from the instrumentalization of cultural relations for political reasons.

Thank you very much for your attention.