The Confucius Institute at the University of Dubai (CIUD) has made substantial contribution to the cultural exchange between China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a scholar has said.The institute, which provides courses on Chinese language and culture, fits into UAE's strategy of making the Gulf Arab state and Dubai a global hub that bridges the East and the West, Eesa M. Bastaki, president of the University of Dubai, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Since China is the world's second largest economy, "it is very important for people to learn its language," Bastaki said, adding that the Chinese language is on the way to become an international language as it is now the second most spoken language in the world after English.
The Chinese language might become a compulsory language in UAE schools in the future and some schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi already have Mandarin as a language of choice in the curriculum, the president said.
At CIUD, many students are from Dubai police and immigration departments, and Bastaki said the institute would like to reach out to more social sectors.
Bastaki, a telecommunication professor who is fluent in five languages, said whilst economic and trade relations between China and the UAE were booming, it was essential to enhance cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, which forged diplomatic relations 30 years ago.
The CIUD, established in 2011 jointly by the University of Dubai and Ningxia University in China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, plays a key role in this regard, he added.
"We have received a lot of students so far and some Arabic students are now fluent in Mandarin. It is easy to learn but you need to learn it," Bastaki said.
Earlier in the year, the University of Dubai and Ningxia University signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a double-degree student exchange program, which will start in 2015.
He said that the MOU, which also includes programs for lecturers and internships for students, shall lift the Confucius Institute to a higher level.
As most Emirati students still aim to study in the West, such as the United States, Britain or Switzerland, more needs to be done to encourage them to opt for studying in China, Bastaki said. "We hope to motivate Arab and foreign students in the UAE to look East."