More exchanges will help demystify China

Despite it being just a short 30 years since it opened up, China's economy is nothing short of a miracle ("Room for give and take on China's road to modernisation"; last Thursday).

But the rapidity of its rise is also disconcerting to some, and we must understand the reasons for this unease.

China sat on the other side of the divide during the Cold War.

Ideologically, it was different, and the fear then was how it would spread its communist fervour to the region. The ideological wars played out in Korea and Vietnam further stoked the uneasiness. China practised central planning economics, which is, again, different from that in much of the region. The "Red Scare" was real.

Today, however, we should not be caught in the remnants of the Cold War.

Mistrust is often a result of a lack of understanding. Accelerating exchanges on all fronts between China and the rest of the world will certainly demystify the once-aloof giant.

We can see outreach efforts on the Chinese front.

Its newspapers and daily television news programmes have been made available on many platforms outside the country. They showcase a modernising China to the world, as much as communicate its positions on world issues.

It pays to take heed of these offerings to understand China.

People-to-people exchange would augur well for this understanding. Nothing beats living among them, reading their newspapers, watching their TV programmes and mingling with the common people.

China has many world-class universities that boast wide-ranging disciplines and are staffed by faculties from around the world. It would be wise for countries to send their best scholars to China to better understand a rising power.

Our local media should also source more from China's burgeoning media to enhance balanced reporting to our domestic audience.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'More exchanges will help demystify China'. Print Edition | Subscribe