(September 21, 2016)
Respected Mr. Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng, President of Ghana Association of Writers (GAW),
Respected Prof. Atukwei Okai, Secretary General of Pan African Writers' Association,
Respected Dr. Doris Dartey, Chairperson of the Graphic Communications,
Respected Mr. Denja Abdullahi, President of Association of Nigerian Authors,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Students,
It is a great pleasure for me to attend the GAW Book Festival as a special guest. I would like to express my appreciation to GAW for providing such a platform of communication and exchange for numerous book lovers in Ghana. The ancient Chinese sage Confucius once said, "Curiosity is more important than knowledge itself, and interest is even more important than pure curiosity". The Book Festival helps arouse people's interests in reading, foster good reading habits and promote the development of Ghana's cultural industry.
As Chinese Ambassador to Ghana and also as an experienced reader, I would like to share the Chinese culture of reading with you first.
Chinese culture is extensive and profound with voluminous excellent books as vast as a misty ocean. As early as 3,000 years ago, Chinese people began to use pictogram, and gradually formed a traditional culture of respecting knowledge and advocating reading. The ancient Chinese mottoes and stories to encourage reading are countless, such as "There are houses of gold and ladies of beauty in the books", which means reading helps us learn so much about beauty and truth that we can live a better life in our own ways. This is frequently referred to motivate students to read more books and study diligently to be men of insight. Chinese people believe that "One has to be a good scholar before he becomes a good official, and a good official should never stop learning". This is to emphasize the importance that officials have to be well read and better educated. The Chinese excellent cultural classics are not only full of the principles of state governance, but also full of philosophies of life. Most ancient Chinese elites were erudite and informed, good at poetry and composition, uphold the Confucian value of "benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, sincerity", and played an important leading role in gradually forming the Chinese national personality of esteeming virtue, respecting knowledge, being diligent and eager to learn.
Reading as a man's hobby may change his life. A nation advocating reading and attaching great importance to education would lift the nation's comprehensive quality to flourish and grow. Highly regarding reading and education, so to speak, is a strong driving force to the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation. The strategies of "rejuvenating China through science and technology" and "mass entrepreneurship and innovation" currently adopted by Chinese government are also consistent with this paradigm.
However, for the time being, Chinese society faces the same problems with other countries such as "overall reading deficiency", "fragmentation reading" and "snack reading" with the impact of modern life style. Chinese national leaders have showed their leadership in advocating reading and establishing a learning society. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang repeatedly emphasize that reading is their way of life. President Xi also makes specific demands on government officials at all levels to engage less in social events and more in reading and thinking. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is a universally acknowledged outstanding diplomat as well as a knowledgeable book lover. He often recommends excellent books to his colleagues in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, from which we all benefit a lot. The Chinese Embassy in Ghana also has a strong atmosphere of reading. Through establishing a Junior Diplomats Reading Club, we often share thoughts on new and good books with each other to enjoy the pleasure of reading.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Students,
Reading books makes me know Ghana better. Before coming to Ghana, I had had more than a dozen years of work experience on African affairs. But I still don't know much about Africa, especially African culture. Over the past two years in Ghana, I have read African Culture in Governance and Development written by Prof. Nana Kobina Nketsia V, Ghanaian Odyssey written by Prof. Baffour Agyeman-Duah, works of Ghanaian leaders as President Kufuor and President Mahama, and even Proverbs of the Akans. Recently, I am reading Who Told the Most Incredible Stories, written by Hon. Naana Opoku-Agyemang, Minister of Education. At first I thought this is a set of picture books to kill time, later found out that it is a set of political, philosophical and sociological books for learning and fun, and very helpful in understanding African especially Ghanaian culture. I deeply realize that the shine of wisdom of excellent cultural classics can pass through history and go across time and space to be the common wealth of thoughts of humanity and a spirit bridge to connect different ethnic groups and civilizations. This Book Festival reconfirms that reading is the common need of mankind, regardless of skin color and national conditions.
Today is the birthday of the founding President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. 56 years ago, the elder generations of Chinese and Ghanaian leaders such as Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and President Dr. Nkrumah decided to establish China-Ghana diplomatic relations with extraordinary foresight and sagacity, which made Ghana one of the first countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to establish diplomatic relations with China. In recent years, the two countries enjoy frequent political exchanges and rapid economic and trade development. China has become one of the most important trade partners and foreign investors for Ghana, with bilateral trade volume reaching 6.6 billion US dollars in 2015. Cultural and people-to-people exchanges are ever-increasing. So far, the Chinese government has offered scholarships to more than 500 Ghanaian students. More than 4,600 Ghanaian self-financed students are studying in China, ranking No.1 in that of Africa. In 2015, Chinese government provided more than 700 training opportunities to Ghana. Intra-school exchanges and jointly running classes between universities of two countries become popular. The Confucius Institutes at University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast serve as important base for Ghanaian people to learn Chinese culture. The Chinese Embassy in Ghana has built "China-Ghana Friendship ICT Labs" for five regions in this country and will build three more this year. Chinese companies such as Huawei and Chinese business community at large are actively endeavored to public welfare undertakings, such as renovating libraries, building multimedia classrooms, donating books, and supporting and participating in the cause of educational and cultural development in Ghana.
Late last year, at the successfully held Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China launched "China-Africa Ten Major Cooperation Plans" and pledged 60 billion US dollars' funding support to Africa. Against this background, China-Ghana relations and cooperation in various areas face great opportunities, and yet at the same time put forward higher request to the mutual understanding between our two countries and peoples. Through the platform of GAW Book Festival, I sincerely hope various cultural and educational agencies, publishers, booksellers and writers will enhance the study of China-Africa relations, publish more relevant books, as well as advocate to general public China-Ghana and China-Africa friendship so as to promote mutual understanding and offer advice and suggestions for China-Ghana and China-Africa relations. I hope numerous NGOs including GAW will continue to support and participate in youth and cultural exchanges and cooperation to make more contributions to the development of China-Ghana relations.
I hope the students will read more books about Chinese history and culture, current development situation and China-Ghana relations, and become supporters and participants of the cause of China-Ghana friendship. A quote from Xunzi, another Chinese ancient sage goes like this, "If one doesn't climb the high mountain, he won't know how high the sky is; if one doesn't go to the deep ocean, he won't know how deep the earth is". So if you don't have personal feelings on the broad and profound Chinese culture, you can't understand how wonderful it is. Today, I brought you some books about Chinese culture and China-Ghana relations. "To open a book is always beneficial". I hope these books will inspire you.
Finally, I wish today's Book Festival a complete success. I wish everyone present would read more good books, make more new friends, and learn more new knowledge.
Happy Founders Day! Thank you!