Confucius Institutes are language and cultural centres, akin to the British Council and Alliance Française, backed by China’s education ministry. The grand duchy’s centre is a partnership between the University of Luxembourg and Fudan University, one of China’s best ranked universities.

The institute was inaugurated on Thursday during a ceremony at the University of Luxembourg’s Belval campus, which included performances of traditional Chinese music, several official speeches, and lion dances.

In his prepared remarks, Stéphane Pallage, rector of the University of Luxembourg, said the local Confucius Institute is “important for Luxembourg, for the university” as it “opens many perspectives” for further cooperation in the fields of research and economic development.

Jiao Yang, chair of the University Council at Fudan University, which is located in Shanghai, stated she was “deeply impressed” with the cultural and scientific development of the University of Luxembourg. Jiao said the Confucius Institute was “the new face of strategic cooperation for the two universities”.

Huang Changqing, China’s ambassador to Luxembourg, noted that the grand duchy was the largest European destination for Chinese overseas investment, and that China was one of Luxembourg’s largest sources of foreign investment.

Marc Hansen, Luxembourg’s DP secretary of state for higher education and research, began his speech by quoting Confucius himself:

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed.

If you think in terms of ten years, plant trees.

If you think in terms of a hundred years, teach the people.”

Hansen went on to say:

“Opening an institute to teach the rich culture and the predominate language spoken by almost 16% of the world’s population is undoubtedly an added value for the university’s environment and for Luxembourg.”

Speaking shortly after the official programme had ended, Hansen told Delano:

“I think it’s a great opportunity for young people to learn the language.... There’s a real interest by the Luxembourgish people, who are used to learning languages.”

Yet the Chinese instruction is not sole goal of the Fudan deal, Pallage told Delano after his speech. “This partnership with the Confucius Institute is definitely about culture and language, but it also about research, education, and we will do a lot of exchanges with Fudan University”. A student exchange programme is already up and running, Pallage said. “We’re also thinking about partnerships in research, so setting up joint conferences [and] exchanging faculty members for a semester.”

On the sidelines of the event, Delano asked Nicolas Mackel, head of Luxembourg for Finance, state-backed promotion group, if the institute was important to the grand duchy’s financial sector. He replied: “There are different dimensions to the relationship that we’re building with China. There is obviously a business dimension, but there is much more than that.”

Mackel added:

“It’s certainly a plus… it’s obviously not something that we could not build a relationship without, since we have built a relationship that today is quite strong, but it certainly is a very, very good and important addition to it, because it simply brings China closer to the people who live in Luxembourg”.

“A lot of Luxembourg people like Chinese culture and they want to learn Chinese. And more and more Chinese companies are coming here, so that will give them a lot of opportunity to [connect with local residents],” said Xie Zhujun, a vice president of Chinalux, the China-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, and a trustee of Luxembourg’s Confucius Institute. Xie said she hoped Chinalux and the institute would be able organise joint seminars and cultural events, such as a Chinese new year celebration.

Traditional Chinese dancers perform during the inauguration of the Confucius Institute at the University of Luxembourg’s Belval campus, 19 April 2018. Staff video.