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Cuban cultural anthropologist's academic quest in China

Updated: 2024-06-25 06:22 ( Xinhua )
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Jesus Guanche Perez, vice-president, Hebei International Studies University. [Photo/Xinhua]

For many years, veteran Cuban cultural anthropologist Jesus Guanche Perez viewed China as a distant and intriguing country, but it was only in 2018 that he was able to explore it for himself, thanks to an invitation from a private university.

His opportunity came when the Hebei International Studies University in Shijiazhuang, capital of North China's Hebei province, reached out to Guanche via email, asking the established scholar if he would consider joining the university as its vice-president.

Having sojourned and worked on several continents, including North America, Europe and Africa, the 74-year-old scholar is deeply invested in the field of cultural anthropology and has earned various titles from academic institutions such as the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Propelled by a perfect match between his field of interest and professional experience in academia and the position offered by the university, Guanche accepted the tenure after several months' communication, finally embarking on the journey from his Caribbean hometown to the northern Chinese city.

He quickly adapted to the new cultural environment in China and continued his academic studies.

"From Monday to Friday, you always see him writing at his office desk, except for short breaks and the time to handle administrative affairs," says Yang Zhen, vice-president of the Hebei International Studies University.

Guanche has published a raft of academic works, including Ethnographic Dictionaries on the Peoples of the World, Latin American and Caribbean Studies on China, Cultural Identities and Diversity: Interculturalism vs Multiculturalism. In China, he also witnessed the country's rapid development and was impressed by the achievements of its reform and opening up drive, as well as its poverty alleviation efforts.

Gaining firsthand knowledge of China's politics, economy and culture, Guanche became interested in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and started to incorporate his BRI research into his studies on global history.

The BRI raised a new concept of cooperation and provided an equal platform for the development of different countries and different peoples, says Guanche. Under the initiative, China and Latin America continue to deepen trade flows and steadily increase the scale of trade. Since 2012, China has maintained its position as the second-largest trading partner of Latin America, data from China's Ministry of Commerce showed. In 2022, the trade volume between China and Latin America approached $500 billion, maintaining rapid growth for six consecutive years.

Cuba was the first country in the Western Hemisphere to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. For Guanche, the exchanges and cooperation between China and Cuba are not only an important subject of academic research, but also a cause in which he has actively participated.

From the establishment of a China-Cuba joint BRI research center at Hebei International Studies University to the promotion of academic exchange activities between Chinese and Cuban higher education institutions — Guanche has provided support and assistance to the best of his ability. In 2020, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the socioeconomic development of Hebei province, he received a friendship award from the provincial government.

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