Deng Bo (right), director of the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington, poses with Gao Mingqiang, director of the Confucius Institute, at Portland State University, at the 4th anniversary celebration of the CI of the State of Washington on April 26 at the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Deng Yu / China Daily
Graduating from Sichuan Normal University — the earliest school authorized by China's education ministry to recruit overseas students — Deng Bo started his Chinese teaching career in 1997, first at the Chinese language teaching center at Sichuan University, then at the school of overseas education.
He still remembers the day he first arrived in Seattle at the end of 2010.
"It was on Dec 29," he said,"I was sent by Hanban as the first Chinese representative to Washington State to enhance the operations of Confucius Institute. We were starting from scratch but I felt very excited about the new position."
This was after the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington had been officially opened on April 26, 2010. The first statewide Confucius Institute was a joint effort of Hanban in Beijing, the University of Washington, the Seattle public school system, Sichuan University and Education Commission of Sichuan province in partnership with the Governor's office and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
Deng's plan when he arrived was simple. "Before we try to help the community here study Chinese language and culture, we first needed to get involved with the community and learn their needs," Deng recalled.
The plan worked. On April 26th, the Confucius Institute celebrated its 4th anniversary. Hundreds of local community leaders, school representatives and students and their families took part, showing their appreciation to Deng and the Confucius Institute for their efforts to expand and support Chinese language and culture programs all over the state of Washington.
The opening speech was from Jeffery Riedinger, the vice-provost for Global Affairs at University of Washington and director of Confucius Institute of the State of WA. The anniversary received greetings from Yan Shijing, vice-president of Sichuan University, University of Washington president Michael Young, deputy superintendent Alan Burke from Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Seattle Public Schools superintendent José Banda, and others.
Led by Deng over the past four years, the institute has created four Chinese education centers partnered with four universities: Washington State, Seattle, Puget Sound and Shoreline Community College.
"This year, we will work with Western Washington University for a Chinese language program and send our certified Chinese language teachers to help them start a program," Deng said.
From the institute's main office on the UW campus, Deng has actively reached out to professors and students interested in Chinese language and culture, and visiting scholars from China. Working with school departments like Asian languages and literature, Deng organized seminars on Chinese culture.
The institute has helped pay for training for Chinese language teachers, for seminars on how to start Chinese language programs and for public events about China.
"At the same time I have motivated more people from our local Chinese community to contribute to our programs," Deng said. "We have famous Chinese-American painters, acupuncturists, experts in Chinese history and art who voluntarily contribute their time and knowledge to our programs."
Deng also keeps up good relations with China-related organizations and associations not only to cooperate with them in the dissemination of Chinese culture but also to connect locally with cities and people in China. Deng has helped a Seattle Chinese Garden delegation get to China; assisted Seattle Sister City Associations by introducing connections in China; and cooperated with the Chinese Microsoft Employee Network on projects such as the Chinese New Year Celebration.
"The institute is about opening up China — it's a two-way street. I hope my work will bridge local communities with China," Deng said.
"One thing that makes me feel fulfilled is seeing more and more young people getting into Chinese language and culture and spending more time studying Chinese, winning Chinese language and talent contests and getting scholarships to visit and study in China. Like Madame Xu Lin, director general of Hanban, said 'these young people will be the pioneers between China and the US,'" Deng said.
The Confucius Institute of the State of Washington also supports the Chinese Bridge Summer Camp for high school students to promote friendship and exchange in China and the US. The 2013 camp was a great success and included students from a variety of districts in the state.
The two-week program for American high school students to experience Chinese language and culture took place July 10-25, 2013. Students arrived and departed through Beijing, with activities in Jilin, Henan, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Washington State has had long and close ties with China. The first ship after the opening of relations came to the Port of Seattle in 1979. On a per capita basis, Washington trades more with China than any other state. China is the largest trading partner through Washington ports, one of the largest sources of international students at our educational institutions, and the second-largest agricultural export market with exports of over $1 billion.