CHENGDU: China hopes to dissolve the misconception of its development as the "China threat," by making its traditional value systems known to the world.
"It's high time to make ourselves better understood by the world's people," said Du Ruiqing, former president of the Xi'an International Studies University.
Once they come to know the Chinese people better, they will find out that harmony is an essential part of Chinese tradition and a country that values harmony poses absolutely no threat to the rest of the world, Du said at the ongoing 17th annual international conference of the Sino-American Education Consortium.
According to Du, culture is a soft power that effectively penetrates to quench misunderstanding and hostility between people of different races.
He said China should help people from other nations acquaint themselves with Chinese culture, including its traditions, religions and particularly the Chinese way of thinking. "This will help China overcome its cultural deficit," he told the conference in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
In terms of international exchanges and trade in culture, "we still have a very bad deficit to resolve," said Zhao Qizheng, former minister of the State Council Information Office.
It runs counter to China's fast-growing economy, which has been expanding by an average 9.6 per cent annually since 1979, said Zhao.
China's booming economy has resulted in a worldwide craze for Chinese language and culture studies.
In the United States alone, nearly 800 colleges and universities have Chinese courses, and about 2,400 high schools and 2,500 primary schools are planning to teach Chinese language and culture soon.
"We need to help our students understand what China is really like and a Chinese course is already on our agenda," said Jeri Hatler, principal of Marietta City School in Georgia.
China's Ministry of Education says approximately 40 million people are learning Chinese as a foreign language worldwide and the figure will hit 100 million by 2010.
By then, the world will be in need of at least 5 million Chinese teachers to teach overseas students.
In China, about 6,000 teachers are teaching 110,000 foreign students Chinese, said Deng Shizhong, an international education specialist with the Southwest University of Finance and Economics.
"Another 34,000 are working overseas. But the group is still too limited in scale to cope with the growing demand from international students who wish to study Chinese language and culture," he said.
In an effort to promote Chinese abroad, China plans to set up 100 "Confucius institutes" around the world to help foreigners learn the language.
Meanwhile, the country has been working to present its culture to the world by staging heritage exhibitions and art performances abroad. "These endeavours illustrate our aspiration to present a true, peace-loving China to the world," said Dr Wan Yiping, president of the Sino-American Education Consortium.
Source: China Daily