CAIRO — The Egyptian Ministry of Education has started a pilot project to include Mandarin Chinese as an elective foreign language in the curricula of 12 middle schools across the nation. A Sept. 25 ceremony was held at the Confucius Institute of Cairo University to launch the project, which includes the training of Chinese language teachers, according to a ministry statement.
The project comes as part of a cooperation protocol with the Confucius Institute of Cairo reached in September 2020 between the Egyptian Ministry of Education and China’s ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang to enhance bilateral cooperation in education and culture.
Speaking at the ceremony, Egypt’s Deputy Minister of Education Muhammad Mujahid emphasizing the strong relations between the two countries. He praised the cooperation with China in the education sector and stressed the government’s support for teaching Chinese and introducing the Egyptian people to Chinese culture.
Many observers see the teaching the Chinese language in Egyptian schools as an important step in strengthening cultural and educational bilateral cooperation as well as evidence of the strength of Egyptian-Chinese ties.
Mohamed Salah el-Din, an Egyptian writer on East Asian affairs, told Al-Monitor, “Teaching the Chinese language in Egyptian schools shows that relations between the two countries have solidified over the past years.” He called the move “an important step as China seeks to become a world power in the coming years” and pointed to “China’s interest in boosting its soft power in Egypt through the Confucius Institute, one of its main tools to spread its culture and language across the world.”
Vice President of Cairo University Gamal el-Shazly said in his speech at the ceremony, “Language is the means of communication between peoples, and it is the greatest means of understanding the other, its culture, history, customs and traditions.”
Shazly noted that Mandarin’s inclusion will allow a new generation of Egyptians to get acquainted with the Chinese people and added that Egyptian-Chinese relations have strengthened through strategic partnerships between the two countries with the support of the Egyptian and Chinese presidents.
During the past few years, relations between Cairo and Beijing have developed significantly, with an exchange of visits between the leaders of the two countries to discuss relations and regional issues.
Zhang Tao, the charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Cairo, told the Middle East News Agency on Sept. 30 that China has been Egypt’s largest trading partner for the past eight years and that the volume of trade exchanged between the two countries reached $20 billion in 2021 — an increase of 37% compared to 2020. He said that in the same year, China’s imports from Egypt stood at $110 million, double the value of the imports registered in 2012.
Tao said, “The volume of Chinese direct investments in Egypt until the first half of 2022 exceeded nearly $1.5 billion,” adding, “The China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone has lured in more than 120 Chinese businesses to make permanent investments in Egypt.”
On Sept. 14, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with Uzbekistan to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner.
Egypt is also involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is working to build a trade and infrastructure network linking Asia with Europe and Africa. According to a recent study by Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, the initiative can be expected to foster stronger and more diversified relations between Cairo and Beijing