6th ASEAN-China Youth Cultural Exchange Festival (ACYCEF), China (2018)

The 6th ASEAN-China Youth Cultural Exchange Festival (ACYCEF) – Innovation Leads Progress, Youths Lead the Future (6-10 August, 2018)

Fostering Mutual Understanding Among Youths from ASEAN Countries and China

By Low Yeh Cher

The 6th ASEAN-China Youth Cultural Exchange Festival was held from 6th to 10th August 2018 on the sidelines of the 2ndASEAN-China People-to-People Friendship Organizations Leaders’ Meeting. Both events were hosted in Chengdu, China, sponsored by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (中国人民对外友好协会) and Sichuan Provincial People’s Government (四川省人民政府), organized by Sichuan Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (四川省人民对外友好协会) and co-organized by Chengdu University (成都大学).

Around 70 student representatives from ASEAN countries and 30 student delegates from Chengdu University participated in this exchange. This was the first year that ACYCEF extended its invitation to college students, as previous participants were mainly from high school. A majority of participants were students who specialize in performing arts, in line with the programme’s aim to promote cultural exchange, strengthen understanding between youths in ASEAN countries and China. The success of this programme is the direct interaction and resulting friendship – an intangible asset for the region and a foundation for future cooperation.

Events and Overall Experience

The theme for the youth cultural exchange festival was “innovation leads progress, youths lead the future”. At the welcome banquet, the Governor of Sichuan, Mr Yin Li, the Former Vice Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Korn Dabbaransi and the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People’s Congress highlighted the importance for mutual understanding between ASEAN and China in order to deepen the current diplomatic and trade relationship.

The participants were later divided into three groups to visit different cities in Sichuan province under different themes: cultural innovation, job creation innovation and technological innovation. Suining (遂宁)、Jiangyou (江油) and Zigong (自贡) were featured during our visits. My group visited the world famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Pandas to learn how ecological preservation and public education is conducted at the research base. Another highlight was the visit to a start-up incubation center focused on agricultural projects. The center’s funding help the farmers to be self-sufficient with technology and new ideas. A group member from Myanmar was inspired by what she saw and expressed her intention to execute a similar programme back home. We also visited quite a number of projects that involved tourism, urban planning and eco-technology.

Youth Forum and Gala Night

The end of the programme was marked by a Youth Forum that required participants to work together beforehand to conclude and present their visits under different themes. Then, the closing ceremony for the Leaders’ Meeting and Students’ Cultural Exchange Festival was a Gala Night prepared by the students. Among the performances, an Apsara dance (royal ballet) from Cambodia, traditional dance compilations from Thai representatives, drama performance from Singapore and a Dikir Barat performance by our Malaysian representatives.

Conclusion

Coming from a multilingual country and being multilingual certainly has its perks. During the meeting and discussion, I often played the role of interpreter for ASEAN and China student delegates. This was a key insight from this programme, that in order to understand each other better, we must equip ourselves with communication skills. This does not require only knowledge on languages but also the patience and skills to convey the messages. Would I recommend other youths to participate in ACYCEF? The answer is definitely a YES. This was a rare chance to meet like-minded, bright youths who share interest in the values of the humanities and concern on current affairs. The participants drew inspiration from each other.

Thanks to modern technology, we still stay in touch with each other via social media. I would conclude this experience with an ancient proverb: All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.