The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, today became the first ever Chinese Head of State to visit UNESCO. President Xi and First Lady Peng Liyuan were welcomed to the Organization’s Paris Headquarters by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who described the visit as “historic” and highlighted that the long-standing ties between China and the Organization have gone from strength to strength.
Following a meeting with Ms Bokova, the President addressed a packed auditorium of representatives from UNESCO’s Member States, members of the diplomatic corps in France, business leaders and other distinguished personalities. In his speech, the President called for respect and protection of cultural diversity, and stressed the importance of maintaining and reinforcing exchange and dialogue between cultures.
“History tells us that only through exchanges and mutual learning can a civilization be filled with vitality,’ said President Xi. “ If all civilizations can uphold inclusiveness, the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’ will be out of the question, and the harmony of civilizations will become a reality.”
In her speech, Irina Bokova recalled that China was a founding member of UNESCO. “I wish to say: Welcome home,” she told President Xi, adding “Your presence, Mr President, is a symbol of the values we share.”
The Director-General highlighted the many activities jointly conducted by UNESCO and China, which bear witness to “China’s clear vision to invest in ‘soft power’ – in education, the sciences and culture - to write a new chapter of its economic and social development.”
“In a world where cultures and identities interact and intersect, peace cannot be based exclusively upon the exchange of commodities and natural resources,” the Director-General said. “Peace implies respect, the sharing of knowledge, mutual understanding and solidarity, because today’s silk roads are at once economic, social and cultural.”
“This is, I believe, the spirit of your “China Dream” Mr President.” she added
China joined UNESCO on 4 November 1946, and has been actively involved in all of UNESCO programme areas. It has 45 World Heritage sites, 38 elements on the Lists of Intangible World Heritage, 32 Man and Biosphere Reserves and nine inscriptions on the Memory of the World Register. There are 25 UNESCO Chairs at Chinese universities and institutes of higher learning, devoted to subjects ranging from Plant Biotechnology to Cultural Heritage Resource Management and Entrepreneurial Education, and the nation counts 200 UNESCO Clubs. China is host to the world’s largest network of UNESCO Category II regional centers.
Five Chinese cities (Shenzhen, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou and Beijing) are members of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network and China has ratified 13 of UNESCO’s international conventions, including the World Heritage Convention, the Convention on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
UNESCO’s General conference, the Organization’s main governing body, is currently presided by Mr Hao Ping, Vice-Minister of Education and Chairperson of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO, and the Republic has been regularly represented on UNESCO’s Executive Board.