DUBAI // The Gulf's first Confucius Institute, which held its opening ceremony in Dubai yesterday, will strengthen ties between China and the UAE, according to the president of the University of Dubai.
The institute will "strengthen the relationship between China and UAE in terms of trade, in terms of cultural activities, in terms of research through the university here", said Omar Hefni, the president of the University of Dubai, where the institute is located.
Dubai now joins 90 other countries, including Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and Morocco, which run more than 300 of the Beijing-backed language and culture institutes, according to Hanban, the government body that oversees the institutes.
The Chinese ambassador and consul general in Dubai joined other visiting dignitaries at the ceremony, where volunteers performed cultural demonstrations including calligraphy and culinary preparations.
The centre offers five levels of term-long courses. Two of its instructors will teach English speakers and a third will instruct Arabic-language students.
Classes began a few weeks ahead of the official launch with about 20 students each, most of them interested in doing business in China.
Fifteen police officers are taking specialised courses, said the institute director Mohayeedin Maxuezhong, with Dubai customs officials and Ras al Khaimah police set to begin classes soon.
The institute's Abu Dhabi branch, housed in Zayed University, began offering courses last September. Its four instructors teach more than 70 students from age six to 60, said Jenny Tang, its director.
Links between China and the Emirates have grown in recent years, with Chinese visitors swelling since the UAE was added to China's list of approved countries in 2009. Bilateral trade has surged, topping US$30 billion (Dh110bn) last year.