Eight Confucius Classroom Hubs under the Confucius Institute at Ulster University opened Friday in Northern Ireland to meet children's needs in learning the Chinese language and culture.
"Northern Ireland has maintained good relationship with China," said Peter Robinson, the first minister of Northern Ireland, who attended the opening ceremony at the Long Gallery of the Parliament building with four other ministers.
"We were delighted when the first Cofucius Institute opened. People are introduced to Chinese culture and language ... In the future, if one could speak English and Chinese, he can probably live in everywhere in the world," he said.
Jonathan Bell, the junior minister, has special feelings about China. One of his ancestors once travelled to war-time China and worked as a doctor in the northeast before he died on the ship back to Britain.
"Opening the Confucius classroom hubs will deepen the link between China and Northern Ireland," he said.
Bell started learning a second language when he was eleven, and he believed it was a bit late. "Now such young children in Northern Ireland could learn Chinese, which is very good," he added.
According to John O'Dowd, minister for education, China is an important power in the world and the second largest economy.
"The experience of learning Chinese culture and way of life could benefit the young people," he told Xinhua.
"They could reach out to another culture. Young people need to be at least bilingual. Those who speak Chinese could give the society advantage when it is doing trade with China. They could understand China better," he said.
Several primary school students who are currently learning Chinese showed their talents after the ceremony. They sang a Chinese folk song and the Kunqu Opera, and a young boy played the traditional flute.
"We can see that more and more young people are getting interested in learning Chinese culture," said Richard Barnett, vice-chancellor of Ulster University.
The eight new Confucius Classroom Hubs, run jointly by Ulster University and China's Hubei Normal University, will provide Chinese education to 110 schools.
The Confucius Institute at Ulster University is becoming increasingly popular, especially among year one and year two college students. The first half of this year saw 15 primary and middle schools establish cooperation with the Confucius Institute to start Chinese education.
A total of 24 Confucius Institutes and 88 Confucius Classroom Hubs had been set up in Britain by the end of last year.