China is striving to dissolve the misconception of its development as the "China threat" in the wake of its rapid economic growth, 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 Prof. Du Ruiqing, former president of the Xi'an International Studies University.
Once they come to know the Chinese people better, they would find out that harmony is an essential part of the Chinese tradition and a country that highly values harmony will absolutely pose no threat to the rest of the world, acknowledged Prof. Du at the ongoing 17th annual international conference of the Sino-American Education Consortium.
According to Du, now a visiting scholar at the State University of Kennesaw, U.S., culture is a soft power that penetrates effectively to quench the misunderstanding and hostilities between the people of different races.
He said China should help people in other nations acquaint themselves with the 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 fact, the "cultural deficit" as he refers to has caught much attention from Chinese officials and scholars in recent years.
In terms of international exchanges and trade in culture, "we still have a very bad deficit to resolve", says Zhao Qizheng, former former minister of China's State Council Information Office.
What runs counter to China's fast-growing economy, and what has been expanding by an average 9.6 percent yearly from 1979 to 2004, Zhao said.
China's booming economy has resulted in a worldwide craze in the 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 the Chinese language and culture soon.
"We really 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 that approximately 40 million people are learning Chinese as a foreign language worldwide and the figure will hit 100 million by 2010.
By then, it adds, the world will be in need if at least 5 million Chinese teachers to teach overseas students.
In China, about 6,000 teachers are teaching 110,000 foreign students Chinese, said Prof. 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 a growing demand from international students who wish to study Chinese language and culture," he said.
In an effort to promote Chinese language and culture abroad, China plans to set up 100 "Confucius Institutes" around the world to help foreigners learn Chinese.
On the other hand, the country has been exerting itself to present its culture to the world by staging heritage exhibitions and art performances abroad. "These endeavors tell its aspiration to present a true, peace-loving China to the world," said Dr. Wan Yiping, president of Sino-American Education Consortium.
"An open China is appealing to the people the world over. I am convinced that the Chinese will become an increasingly popular and widely used international language in the decades ahead," Prof. Deng said.