Young Sinologist's ambitions for the future

By Hannes Dekeyser ( ) Updated: 2016-07-22 06:00:00

Young Sinologist's ambitions for the future

Hannes Dekeyser attends a lecture in Beijing during the 2016 Visiting Program for Young Sinologists. [Photo/]

Hannes Dekeyser is a program coordinator at the European Institute for Asian Studies. The 26-year-old Belgian took part in the 2016 Visiting Program for Young Sinologists and was passionate when talking about his ambitions to master the Chinese language as soon as possible, to catch up with the rest of the crowd. This year, 31 Sinologists from 26 countries participated in the program and most of them speak fluent Chinese.

My personal profile might be a bit different from the other people in this program. I have not pursued a major in Chinese language, nor in Chinese culture, (yet).

Back in 2012, I finished a degree in Tourism Management with particular attention to the BRICS tourism industries, and especially to China.

For this study, I decided to embark on a one semester internship in China. I was welcomed by a dynamic Chinese tourism marketing company in Beijing, where I was given the responsibility to build bridges between foreign destination representatives and the booming Chinese outbound travel industry.

Being the only foreign colleague in the office, I was immediately and spontaneously immersed in the local business culture, and of course the fabulous and fascinating culture of China.

It is an understatement to say that I absolutely loved my life in Beijing. Its food, its people, its way of life. I had never been in a place so different from home. Very soon, though, I felt like this place had becóme home. Moreover, like most of the first time visitors, I was intrigued to witness the enormous scope and pace of China's development.

The vast ambition and the optimism of the people I met just astonished me, and in particular the enormous contrast with the prevailing uncertainties and pessimist growth predictions in Europe at the time. All of this took place in a country with a culture and a political system distinctly different from the form of governance that I was used to.

China's meritocracy and its development model are indeed subject to criticism in Europe, but the time in Beijing has opened my mind and convinced me that every form of governance has its merits, which also counts for China.

This fascination never let me go. Ever since, I have been observing political and socio-economic affairs in China. Once back in Belgium, I pursued a Master of Science in International Relations, with a particular focus on China's Foreign Policy.

In this context, I was given the opportunity to lead a delegation of Belgian university students to Sichuan University in the summer of 2013, for a four-week experience of cultural exchanges and academic in-depth debates between Chinese and European scholars on EU-China relations.

I currently work as a Program Coordinator for the European Institute for Asian Studies, also known by its acronym EIAS. This think tank, located next to the Belgian parliament in the heart of Brussels, was founded in 1989 with support from the European Commission. Our core mission is to promote the understanding between the European Union and Asia through a wide range of projects and initiatives including policy research papers, conferences, seminars and training programs.

At EIAS, my research mainly relates to China's Foreign Policy, EU-China Relations and actual Socio-Economic and Political Developments in China.

In a nutshell, my personal story about China and me. I am aware that I am still in a rather early stage of my career so to end up, these are my main ambitions for the future:

First, I want to contribute to the mutual understanding and dialogue between Europe and China through my work at EIAS and for Atlas, and by continuously trying to provide a balanced and nuanced perspective on China.

Second, language. I currently follow Mandarin classes at a Belgian Confucius Institute, but the hustle and bustle of our work in Brussels hinders me to have full attention. Learning the language will however be one of my key ambitions for the months and years to come.

Third, despite the contemporaneity of our policy research and activities at EIAS, I find it crucial and relevant to take the historical and cultural context of a certain subject into account. Therefore, I want to immerse myself more in these matters.

I'm convinced that this visit to China and the interactions with colleagues and experts will definitely contribute to my research and my work for the European Institute for Asian Studies.


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