This year, 2016, will draw to an end in a matter of days. Many remarkable events have taken place in China throughout the year. For example, the country implemented the two-child policy nationwide at the beginning of the year. In March, China enacted its first law to combat domestic violence, and in September, China hosted the G20 (Group of Twenty) Summit in Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province. Throughout the year, China caught the world's attention — time and time again. Women of China (WOC) recently interviewed five foreigners, who discussed the events and/or experiences in China that most impressed them in 2016. What did they have to say?
Oscar Rueda, Colombian Ambassador to China
China is a hub for international and world-class events. Not a single week goes by without there being a State visit, an anniversary celebration or an event highlighting continental or global impact. Since my arrival in Beijing as ambassador of Colombia three months ago, I have witnessed State visits from Uruguay, Peru, Vietnam, Philippines and several other countries. I have participated in a celebration to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, during which Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave a speech. I have participated in the sesquicentennial of Sun Yat-sen's birth, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping made important remarks. I have also had the pleasure of witnessing the launch of the Long March 5 rocket.
But, without a doubt, the event that impressed me the most was the G20 Summit, held in Hangzhou, in early September, when representatives from the world's largest economies, the European Union and recently industrialized economies met to discuss issues related to the development of the world's economy. With the participation of representatives from eight invited countries, there were 27 heads of state, as well as general secretaries of the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Even the sky was a witness to the significance of this event, and we had the pleasure of enjoying a clear blue sky during the event.
The G20 Summit was one of the most important meetings that concentrated on discussing the world's economy. China and the United States' adherence to the Paris Agreement (an agreement dealing with greenhouse-gas-emission mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020, adopted in Paris on December 12, 2015) marked the summit's start. As 26 other countries followed suit, the agreement was enforced in November. Some of the summit's conclusions included the commitment to increase international trade and investment, fight protectionism, use innovation as a measure to further develop the world's economy, fight against fiscal fraud, strengthen globalization and support refugees.
Marja Rislakki, Finnish Ambassador to China
I think the G20 Summit in Hangzhou was an important event for everyone. Although Finland did not participate as a member country in this significant meeting, the European Union (EU) did participate (in the event), and Finland, as a member of the EU, could be considered as (being) a part of the important meeting. I believe people from around the world were impressed by how well this event was organized in China. The results turned out good. Now it is important, as mentioned by President Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit, to implement what has been decided by leaders from G20 members.
If we talk about gender issues, we are very pleased to see the newly enacted anti-domestic violence law coming out as an important legislation.
In fact, so many things have happened throughout this year. I have been traveling across China, a lovely country that is so diversified, in terms of the natural environment and foods in various places. Last September, I enjoyed a nice trip to Nanjing (capital of East China's Jiangsu Province), where Finland cooperated with the authorities of Nanjing to announce the winner of an architecture competition. Architectural companies from Finland participated in the competition, during which they submitted designs for the building of a new Sino-Finnish Center in the southern part of Nanjing. I think this kind of people-to-people communications, at the grassroots level, are quite close to my heart.
Ina Marciulionyte, Lithuanian Ambassador to China
This year was very important for our bilateral relationship, because in 2016 we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of diplomatic relations between Lithuania and China. Because of the special occasion, we placed a great emphasis on the promotion of Lithuanian culture in China. I would say, in our history of bilateral cultural communications, 2016 was the first year we brought to stage 19 theater performances and showed our artists' wonderful performances to audiences in China.
The charity fair, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in late October, was also an important event. The event was special because the organizer involved the diplomatic community, to join hands with Chinese participants and take part in something very noble and useful. The event offered us (diplomats from various countries) opportunities to not only represent our countries, but to also collect money to support something important for Chinese people.
Ramziya Fazdalova, WOC Reader from Russia
Unfortunately, I haven't spent a long time in China this year, except for several business trips to Beijing. But I always review important news and events, as everything happening in China influences my friends, my job and me.
I do admire the speed at which China continues to grow … What impresses me the most is the development of education. As time passes, generations change and people become different. Chinese people have realized the huge importance of brand-level education, which involves knowledge in different spheres, as well as etiquette and flexibility in international communications. That matters! I have noticed it is now much easier to make contact with Chinese people, because they have become more and more open to the world. Now, I can meet Chinese in China, Russia or Europe. We can chat in Chinese or English, and our interactions always go smoothly. That helps foreigners better understand China. Good education also enables Chinese people to collaborate easier with cosmopolites around the globe. I do like the feeling when I walk into an old hutong in Beijing, and at the same time modern, gigantic architecture masterpieces exist in this city too. It's the way society should develop nowadays: Preserve one's unique culture, but be open to the new high-tech world; love your own history and culture, but make people from other countries feel like being at home.
Patricia Johnson, Oral English Teacher from Australia
My husband and I came from Australia to live in China in April 2009. We have taught oral English to thousands of Chinese, young and old. We spent two years in Wendeng, one year in Qingdao, one year in Laiyang, one year in Weihai, and we settled down in Rongcheng in July 2014. (The places mentioned above are all in East China's Shandong Province.) In 2016, my most worthwhile experience was attending the graduation, at Tsinghua University, of one of my students from Wendeng.
We love this country. During the past seven years, we have visited over 70 fascinating cities in China, and we have made friends with many wonderful Chinese people.
One of the most significant events in 2016 was the anti-domestic violence law, which took effect in March. The enacting of this law marked an important advancement in the rule of Chinese laws. The restraining order and ability to report abuse will help protect domestic violence victims.
I am a member of Soroptimist International, a worldwide organization for women in management and professionals to advance human rights and the status of women. In 2016, in Rongcheng, I assisted volunteers who donated money and provided food to people in poor villages.
The most important event, for me personally as a foreigner living in China, was the launch of my book, 'Trishies' My Magnum Opus. In the last seven chapters, I wrote about the 70 amazing and interesting places across China that we have visited. My husband and I first came to China in 1986 with our five young children. This country has risen from abject poverty to high-speed trains, huge modern freeways, housing for the poor, modern shopping centers, Western cars, and nicely established homes, fashions and appliances. I consider myself fortunate as I have been here to see this nation growing from 'bicycles to Bentleys' in one generation.
(Executive Editors: SHANE YEE and DAI RUI, Women of China English Monthly December 2016 Issue)
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