BEIJING: Sets of Bahasa Melayu books were given to universities in China as learning supplements for students undergoing the language course. The set of some 40 books – published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka – included literature, novels, encyclopedia and revision materials.

Communication University of China (CUC) deputy director of International Office Prof Zhong Dandan said the gifts were timely amid the pandemic.

She said they had a collaboration with Universiti Sains Malaysia for their students to study six months there to polish their skills.

But this has been halted since 2020 after both countries closed the borders to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19.

“These books will be of great help to our students,” she said while citing a Chinese idiom “xue zhong song tan” (offer coal in snowy weather) to describe the gesture from the Malaysian embassy here.

CUC opened its Bahasa Melayu course in 2000 and has nearly 40 students undergoing the programme now.

Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) director of International Exchange and Cooperation Office Prof He Jing said that the Malay language is an important communication tool in Asia.

“BFSU is happy to work with the Malaysian embassy and education institutions to further promote the language and its development in China,” she said.

Being the first Chinese university to open the Bahasa Melayu course, BFSU received its first batch of students in 1962. It has so far groomed over 300 talents in the field.

Prof Zhong and Prof He received the books from Malaysian Ambassador to China Raja Datuk Nushirwan Zainal Abidin at a simple ceremony on Tuesday.

In his speech, Raja Nushirwan said it was important to promote better understanding among nations through language studies and cultural exchanges.

He said efforts to promote the Malay language was in line with the vision of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who had recently suggested to make it a second official language of Asean.

“We are proud to see the language gaining popularity in China. I hope the books could help the students to learn better and further raise their interest in the language,” he said.

The same set of books will also be sent to the other Chinese universities that conduct Bahasa Melayu courses. Currently, there are nearly 450 students undergoing the programme at 15 higher learning institutions throughout China.

The over 800 Bahasa Melayu graduates are now working at various Chinese government agencies, including the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Customs, as well as media organisations, overseas offices of Chinese companies or have taken up teaching positions to groom more talents in the field.