China will host a high-profile international conference next month to promote cooperation among cultural heritage administrators, conservators and researchers across Asia, the head of the National Cultural Heritage Administration said during the ongoing annual sessions of the country's top legislature and top political advisory body.
Li Qun, director of the administration and a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily that the conference, the Founding Assembly of the Alliance for Cultural Heritage in Asia, is scheduled to be held from April 24 to 25 in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.
It will also be the first offline intergovernmental conference focusing on cultural heritage collaboration to be hosted by China since early 2020.
"As the first international mechanism in cultural heritage initiated by China, the Alliance for Cultural Heritage in Asia is a key step in strengthening cooperation among Asian countries," said Li, who is also vice-minister of culture and tourism.
"We're committed to working step by step to turn the alliance into an actual international organization," he added. "Within its framework, we can make more contributions to jointly safeguarding the shared heritage of humankind."
In a keynote speech at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing in May 2019, President Xi Jinping expressed China's willingness to work with other countries to protect Asian cultural heritage and better preserve and sustain civilizations.
Echoing his proposal, a two-day online meeting, the inaugural Asian Dialogue for Cultural Heritage Conservation was held in November 2021, during which the Alliance for Cultural Heritage in Asia was also initiated.
The founding members of the alliance are China, Armenia, Cambodia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Li told China Daily that ministerial-level cultural heritage officials and experts from around 30 Asian countries are expected to attend the Xi'an conference.
He said that the founding members had reached a consensus on the statutes of the alliance.
The Xi'an conference will also see the election of the alliance's secretary-general, along with the issuing of its annual plan and guidance on how to apply for funds from the alliance to support cultural heritage conservation.
The Chau Say Tevoda temple in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, was the first China-hosted international joint restoration program overseas, where work began in 1998.
In the past decade, thanks to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which calls for strengthening people-to-people exchanges, Chinese experts have been engaged in protecting and conserving 11 heritage sites in six Asian countries.
This work included restoration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Itchan Kala, the inner section of the ancient city of Khiva in Uzbekistan, which was completed in 2019, and the ongoing restoration of the Thatbyinnyu Phaya temple in Bagan, Myanmar.
"A network of cooperation under the framework of the BRI is being established," Li said.
China's experience in applying for UNESCO World Heritage status also contributed to the country's cultural links with other nations.
For example, China cooperated with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in the successful bid for World Heritage status for "Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor" in 2014, which has inspired cooperation on similar programs with other countries.
Li said that China has also offered "multiple technical and intellectual support" to a similar program nominated for World Heritage status, "Silk Roads: Fergana-Syrdarya Corridor", involving Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the fields of the management of heritage sites, studies of values, and nominating strategy.