Culture sets the beat for ties

Updated: 2014-01-13 07:03

By Zhang Fan in Beijing (China Daily Latin America)

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Culture sets the beat for ties

Students at a Capoeira school demonstrate their skills in Beijing. Brazilian cultures are gaining more and more popularity in China. He Canling / China Daily 

Bossa nova and samba playing an ambassadorial role with Chinese

To celebrate the first day of 2014, Ma Yan, a human resources consultant, chose to treat herself and her boyfriend to the rhythmic delights of a bossa nova concert in Beijing.

Lisa Ono, a Sao Paulo-born singer who has popularized bossa nova around the world, put on a two-hour show that included several classics, including the iconic, "The Girl From Ipanema".

"Bossa nova music is among my favorites," Ma said. "It combines the strong rhythms of samba with elements of jazz and helps me relax when I’m under pressure.’’

Although she cannot understand Portuguese, she said the music opens a window on the world of Brazilian culture.

"Brazil is very mysterious and attractive to me. I want to travel there and see the cradle of bossa nova with my own eyes. I also want to learn Portuguese to help me better understand its culture."

Bossa nova (new trend), a fusion of samba and jazz, came to prominence in the 1960s and is becoming increasingly popular both globally and in China. Several thousand people swayed to the beat at the Beijing concert.

But music is not the only Brazilian art from to witness rising popularity.

In September, the Brazilian embassy launched Brazil Culture Month in several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, and more than 60 Brazilian cultural events.

"It is not through the Internet that you get to know about a country. It is through cultural exchanges," said Olivia Hime, a famous Brazilian musician at the launch of the Brazil Culture Month.

Marta Suplicy, Brazil's culture minister, said that although Brazil and China are enjoying closer ties through economic cooperation, there is still much to be done to improve cultural communication.

"But I think we have everything we need to get closer culturally now," said Suplicy during an interview with the Hong Kong media.

Cultural communication is important to both the Brazilian and Chinese governments. In the Joint Communique Between China and Brazil on Further Strengthening China-Brazil Strategic Partnership, the countries agreed to promote bilateral understanding through language education.

The idea was further strengthened by the China-Brazil 2010-2014 Joint Action Plan, in which eleven culture-related agreements were reached, including building culture centers and encouraging cooperation between the countries’ cultural sectors.

Zhou Zhiwei, a researcher on Brazilian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said cultural communication involves multiple levels.

"China and Brazil have established a comprehensive partnership. Both governments should consider how to fulfill the potential of such ties and culture can be a key to realizing that goal," Zhou said.

He said Brazilian art forms have become popular in Western countries, but most Chinese citizens are still not familiar with them.

Moreover, education cooperation between China and Brazil remains at a relatively low level, with limited student exchanges and programs.

"The governments need to encourage more communication between the people. It is really hard to deepen relations between China and Brazil if the countries do not know much about each other," Zhou said.

"A better understanding between nations can help to stabilize bilateral relations when facing disputes and challenges. It will not only benefit the economics but will also benefit political cooperation between China and Brazil," he added.