Ræða Formanns Kím Vegna 70 ára Afmælis

Your excellency, ambassador He Rulong, board members of KÍM, the Chinese Icelandic Culture Society and other guests, welcome to this event to celebrate the 70th anniversary of KÍM.

I would first like to thank the ambassador, his excellency He Rulong, and his staff at the Chinese Embassy in Iceland, for hosting this event to mark the 70th anniversary of KÍM, and for honouring our former chairmen for their contributions. Throughout the years and decades, the Chinese embassy has been an important partner and a friend to KÍM, participating in and supporting countless activities, cultural visits and a wide variety of events.

As most of us in this room already know, KÍM established relations with the Peoples Republic of China in the year 1953 and was for more than 25 years the single most important venue for China Iceland relations, before the two countries established political relations in December 1971. KÍM has one of the most long-standing cultural relationships with the Peoples Republic of China, a fact that we are incredibly proud of and look forward to continue.

I would like to address this assembly on a personal note, as the newly elected Chairman of KÍM. I moved to China in the year 2001, a young man at the age of 23. I admit that at the time, I had a very superficial understanding of China and knew very little about Chinese culture. As I began my studies in the Chinese language at the Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, I was able to slowly open the treasure chest that is Chinese culture. It began in a normal way, through food, learning about the amazing variety between different schools of Chinese cuisine. Then I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to many different provinces in China, experiencing first-hand how incredibly diverse and rich Chinese culture truly is. Later in my studies, I began to understand the depth and elegance of the Chinese language, learnt about Chinese history, literature and art. After five years of studies in China, the influence of Chinese culture had become profound, deep and would never leave me.

Once I returned to Iceland, I was immediately reminded of how little my countrymen know about China. And as I stand here today, I am aware that this fact has hardly changed. And perhaps it is not their fault: Our televisions and smartphones are filled with mostly American entertainment and the little news we get about China is focused on politics and occasionally commerce, and rarely in a positive light.

Which brings me back to KÍM and the path ahead. Our mission and aim remains the same; to encourage and facilitate relations in the area of culture and art between our two countries.

Although relations between Iceland and China have increased by leaps and bounds in the last 2 decades specifically, I would argue that KÍM remains an important bridge between China and Iceland. It is our continued aim to increase, enhance and deepen cultural relations as well as mutual understanding and learning between our cultures.

Finally, I would like to extend my best wishes to all the former chairmen of KÍM and express my gratitude for all their hard work and dedication in the past. It is my hope and my firm belief that KÍM will continue to thrive and continue to have a positive impact on China Iceland relations.

Arnar Steinn Þorsteinsson
formaður KÍM

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