China's vice premier Liu Yandong called for further development of the Confucius Institute to promote cross-border cultural exchanges during an annual conference of the institute on Saturday. Liu, who is also president of the Confucius Institute Headquarters council, attended the opening ceremony of the eighth conference of the institute, and presented awards for excellent individuals and organizations. In an address at the ceremony, Liu said that this year witnessed sound development of the Confucius Institute, which made positive contributions to satisfying demand for Chinese study and promoting understanding and friendship between people from China and other countries. Liu said the Confucius Institute serves as an important platform for cultural exchange and friendship between Chinese people and people from foreign countries. She said she hoped the institute would further expand the scale and improve the quality of Chinese language teaching. Liu called for cooperation through the platform, and urged it to show the world the real picture of China and promote inclusiveness and mutual understanding of different civilizations. Liu also presided over the meeting of the Confucius Institute Headquarters council before the opening ceremony. A total of 440 Confucius Institutes have been established in 120 countries and regions since the first institute was established in 2004, and registered students now total about 850,000.