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Young Russians eager to learn Chinese

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-17 07:17

Russian children practice Chinese calligraphy during a cultural exchange event in Moscow on April 20, International Chinese Language Day. TIAN BING/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Every Sunday, Chinese-language tutor Kirill Burobin starts work early in the morning and remains busy until midnight.

Burobin said the number of his students has tripled over the past year.

"Sunday is the busiest," said the 20-year-old, who added that he makes a good living teaching online lessons. "I have 16 hours of virtual classes without a break."

The surge in demand for Chinese lessons in Russia reflects the nation's shift toward the East as tensions escalate between Moscow and the West.

And with President Vladimir Putin's two-day visit to China, which began on Thursday and is his first trip abroad during his new term of office, Russia also aims to elevate the two countries' comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, experts said.

Amid multiple rounds of Western sanctions, Russia seeks to strengthen ties with China for its economic and technological development, they said.

Natalia Danina, a manager at HeadHunter, Russia's leading online recruitment company, said there were almost 11,000 job openings last year requiring proficiency in Chinese, a 44 percent increase from 2021.

Over the same period, the number of jobs for Chinese speakers in Russia has doubled in the areas of sales, transportation and logistics, she said, noting an "accelerated transition" to Chinese-made equipment and spare parts.

Furthermore, the need for Chinese speakers in energy-related positions has tripled, Danina said.

Cao Shihai, minister-counselor of education at the Chinese embassy in Russia, said that educational and cultural exchanges have emerged as a crucial component of bilateral relations, playing an irreplaceable role in fostering mutual trust and friendship among the people of both countries.

Universities and other educational institutions in China and Russia have entered into over 3,000 agreements and formed 13 university alliances, encompassing more than 800 universities, he said.

With the rising popularity of language learning, approximately 120,000 Chinese students are studying Russian, while the number of Russian students learning Chinese has reached 113,000. Moreover, 150 universities and nearly 200 high schools have introduced Chinese-language classes, Cao added.

Burobin, who is also studying Eastern civilizations at a top Moscow university, said he was happy to help his students learn more about "a whole new world".

"Russians are taking up Chinese because Beijing has been our main partner for decades," he said. "And this is just the beginning."

Alina Khamlova, 26, who teaches English and Chinese, said she had only three English-language students this year, compared with 12 who are learning Chinese.

One of her students is Maria, a 22-year-old designer who dreams of traveling to China to make clothes because it would be "cheaper than in Russia".

Khamlova also said many young people in Russia hope to study at Chinese universities.

Meanwhile, the Russian-Chinese International School is set to launch in Moscow in the fall. The school is now recruiting and has received numerous inquiries from Russian parents eager for their children to master the Chinese language.

Wu Hao, headmaster of the school, said: "With Putin's visit to China underway, the demand for Russian professionals proficient in Chinese is expected to rise. Learning Chinese has become a strong trend among youngsters in Russia."

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