Decades ago, for most people in Egypt or other countries along the Belt and Road, China was a mysterious country - everyone knew kung fu, everything was cheap and inferior; similarly, for most Chinese people, Egypt was full of mystery---people living in deserts, pyramids building by aliens --- these are what we call STEREOTYPES.
To break those stereotypes and get to know the real situations, we need someone to make bridges serving for people-to-people communications and exchanges. Wafaa Ezzat from Egypt is right the person and let’s find out more on her story.
Wafaa: My name is Wafaa. I'm from Egypt as you mentioned, Cairo Egypt to be specific. And I've been living in Beijing for six years. I did my masters and I majored in Chinese. And I had a minor in broadcasting.
Not only studying as a foreign student in China, but also working for cross cultural introduction in media, Wafaa Ezzat serves as a bridge—breaking the stereotypes and bridging up the gap between two countries.
It was in the year 2011, Wafaa came to China as she was attracted by the charming Chinese language and culture.
Wafaa: I just fell in love with the language. It's so different in every single aspect, especially the characters. They were like, wow, that's something, that's like art. And then I came to China in 2011 on a summer camp, and that's when I realized that I want to learn more about China - the actual China. Get to live this experience to the max - travel around China, see Chinese people, learn more about culture, get to see people from different minorities that they are so different. I wanted to learn more about Chinese culture and civilization and history, and improve my Chinese, and get to see actual Chinese people - we don't see a lot of them back in Egypt. You go to a province and it’s like you travel to a different country, so it's fascinating.
As Wafaa sees more and more the development taking place in China, she soon realizes that the real China is far different from what she heard in her hometown.
Wafaa: I grew up people saying that Chinese products are not trustworthy, they're bad quality, they're cheap but they're bad quality - things like that. Chinese people might be poor, uneducated. You don't know what's going on, everybody knows Kung fu apparently.
As for Wafaa, she chooses to set aside all those stereotypes and gives it a try on her own. Once invited by the National Peking Opera Theater, Wafaa took part in a live interactive activity themed Peking Opera during the Lantern Festival. She went into the backstage of the performances, experienced the costumes and facial makeup of this attractive art, learned the figure of it, and watched some famous excerpts. For her, only by experiencing it can you find out the truth.
Wafaa: So a lot of stereotypes, a lot of misconceptions about China. But that has changed a lot after China opened up to the world and more people were welcomed in China through educational institutes and colleges and scholarships, for example for students and things like that that started attracting more people to come to China and actually experience the real China not the one they hear about from the media or the one they see on social media, for example. That changed a lot.
Now Wafaa works for China International Communications Group. “Go and see it yourself”, that’s what Wafaa keeps on doing as a media worker. She went further and further, up into the mountains and down to the villages, to record the real progress in Chinese poverty alleviation. She is happy to witness that more and more foreigners come to see the real China, while Chinese people go abroad to touch the world as well.
Wafaa: Now China to the world is that fascinating country with a huge economy. Chinese people are getting more rich, so they travel more. They get to meet other people from different countries, they get to experience different cultures. So it's totally like, it's just as totally changed.
In her years studying and working in Beijing, Wafaa not only witnesses the real development in China, but also serves as a bridge to show the real China to the world as well as introduce her motherland Egypt to Chinese people.
Wafaa: It was me and a couple of friends, we posted on Facebook nothing big but then it got shared on Weibo and a lot of people commenting: oh that's how things are. Like they were doing it like a fun talk kind of thing like you say a stereotype and I'm trying to explain that this is not the reality, or this stereotype is actually correct.
When it comes to the most impressive thing about China from the perspective of a media worker who also share people’s life here and there, Wafaa together with her teammates made a short video to show the convenient life in China.
Wafaa: The cashless society topic that we broke down like we did a video that it looks like we got up in the morning and we carried only our phone, nothing else. And how can you go by, by just your phone, you don't need anything else. That was fascinating. You do pay for everything by your phone - taking the subway, from taking the subway, grocery shopping, buying a coffee, taking a DiDi and then you just do everything on your phone. You don't need cash anymore. I saw a lot of shares, lots of comments: ‘Do they really do this? How did they do this?’ It was like: ‘What?’ It was shocking. Don't think ‘It's that popular?’, but that's how everybody lives here. That's the lifestyle here.
In recent years, according to the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Egypt have cooperated closely in many projects such as the development of the Suez Canal Corridor and energy construction, and Egypt has become an important partner in the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" with China. For Wafaa, the convenience brought by the Belt and Road Initiative makes her want to do even more for both China and her motherland, to promote communications and exchanges between the two countries. In her mind, things she would like to see making the cross are definitely the railway stations.
Wafaa: System in China is amazing, it's massive. Like I think this is like everybody's jealousy of China for having that, it's just great. It takes you from one place to another in no time, it's affordable to everybody and it's punctual and it's great. It's just convenient and very comfortable. So why not have this around the world? Why can't traveling be easier from one city to another. So that would be something absolute that's a game changer in Egypt.
Between the two countries and global exchanges, people like Wafaa can be seemingly ordinary, but contributions they make are great. They are more than just witnesses or observers, most importantly, they serve as bridges, breaking stereotypes, showing the real China to the world as well as introducing the outer world to China.