Extending the global hand of friendship

  • Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett joins global roundtable at the birthplace of Confucius in China

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, who is a senior advisor to China on cultural understanding, is today (Friday 31 July 2015) attending a meeting with senior officials from the government and higher education at the Confucius Institute in China.

Main1The high profile event is being held in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, known throughout the world for his teaching on the harmonious society and good relations between people.

Sir Keith has already held high-level meetings with Madame Xu Lin, Global Director General of the Confucius Institute, which promotes the understanding of Chinese language and culture around the world, Madame Xu Lin is also an honorary graduate of the University of Sheffield.

Sir Keith said: “There has never been a more important time for the people of the United Kingdom to reach out the hand of friendship to China. It is not simply a question of trade or the many thousands of talented Chinese students who choose to advance their education in British universities, studying to become scientists, lawyers, doctors and architects.

“What really matters is that we as human beings and societies face mutual challenges which we can only fully address together. In particular, both China and the UK are grappling with issues of sustainable energy, climate change, how to develop our cities and care for the elderly as populations shift. These are questions which require common purpose and the willingness to listen and learn from one another.”

He added: “It is a great delight to me that this is exactly the spirit I repeatedly encounter in China. Whether it is collaboration on low-carbon energy or a desire to share cultural insights, we are remaining true to the teachings of Confucius that whenever a group gathers together in the spirit of mutual understanding, we also find that we meet teachers who help us to see and act in ways we could never do alone.”

mainSir Keith, who is a speaker of Mandarin Chinese, is also holding separate meetings with leaders of Chinese universities and senior officials, as well as discussions with China's Metallurgical Corporation in relation to supporting business partnerships around advanced manufacturing and access to technologies which support more sustainable industries.

Sir Keith, Fellow of the Royal Society, is a member of the UK Prime-Minister's Council on Science and Technology. In 2014 he was awarded an Individual Excellence Award by the Vice-Premier of China for his personal contribution to the understanding of Chinese language and culture.

The University of Sheffield is home to a model Confucius Institute focused on the language and culture of business, sustainability and health. It was also named Confucius Institute of the Year.

Sir Keith



round table

Additional information

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Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859