A mini United Nations shines in Yiwu community
Kids learn to draw on a Chinese kite at Jimingshan community in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, in April. [Photo by Gong Xianming/For China Daily]
Samer Farhat, a Lebanese business owner and partner at the Yiwu Yueguan Trading Firm, has lived in Yiwu, a major commodity hub in Zhejiang province, for more than 20 years.
Back in August, when the city was experiencing rising COVID-19 cases, he was among a group of international residents who volunteered to fight against the virus in the city's Jimingshan community.
He did it not only in English, but also in Chinese.
"I was already learning Chinese by myself before I started to learn at a local language course," he said. "Speaking Chinese makes it easy to communicate with the suppliers and explain details of the items we need to order. As you know, for most of the older generation in the market and factories, their English is not all that good."
In 2014, a Confucius Institute opened in Jimingshan community. Professional Chinese language teachers offered foreign residents Chinese language and culture training courses, including in Pinyin and Chinese characters, according to Pan Xiaoshan, project supervisor at the Yiwu Tongyue Social Work Service Center.
"The courses improve the listening, speaking, reading and writing skills of students, removing language barriers and building a bridge to residents," Pan told China Daily. "The courses are free for those who do volunteer work in the community. They get points that can be exchanged for free classes."
Known locally as the "United Nations community", Jimingshan is a multinational, multicultural community.
"Jimingshan has a permanent population of 29,000, including 2,000 residents from 29 ethnic minorities and 1,300 foreigners from 70 countries and regions," said He Wenjun, secretary of the community.
In addition to Chinese courses, themed activities related to food, culture and clothing are also held regularly to promote communication and exchanges between foreign and local residents.
During this year's Mid-Autumn Festival in September for instance, they gathered to make mooncakes, read poems and listen to traditional stories about the moon.
"In consideration of different beliefs and customs, we prepared a variety of mooncakes," said Zhu Yanfen, a staff member at the community. "We also played interactive games such as learning Mid-Autumn Festival-related vocabulary in both Chinese and English."
Farhat said that after living in the community for so many years, it feels like a family atmosphere.
"I have stayed in the area for a long time because it is calm. There is a nice park where my daughters like to play."
Since the community is also near the Yiwu International Trade Market, one of the largest small commodities trade hubs in the world and a key player in the global daily consumer goods trade, it is home to many business owners.
"I opened a trading company here in 2002, exporting commodities to Africa, the Middle East, the USA and South America," said Farhat. "We help foreign traders find what they need."
In the middle of November, Zhejiang authorities mapped out the construction of the sixth lot of future communities that are being created with the national goal of common prosperity in mind.
Six communities in Yiwu were listed, including Jimingshan.
The term "future community", as mentioned in the provincial government's work report in 2019, is based on the idea of urban development to make cities more people-oriented, environmentally friendly and digital. In August 2021, the community's government service platform, which covers nine main areas including neighborhoods, education and health, was launched, according to local media.
According to the Foreign Affairs Office of Jinhua People's Government, the service terminal also offers online livestreamed Chinese language courses for foreign residents, that are not bound by time or geographical constraints.
Fang Xiaoying contributed to this story.
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