CULTURAL COHORTS: An Indian student practices Chinese calligraphy at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on February 2 during a cultural outreach event (LI YIGANG)
China feels the need to urgently make up for lost time in a field it is unfamiliar with—public diplomacy.
While most developed countries such as the United States, Japan and European countries have established mature systems of public diplomacy, China's public diplomacy is still in its early stages, said Ma Zhengang, Vice Chairman of the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) and former Chinese Ambassador to Britain during a recent online interview.
"Changing situations inside and outside China make carrying out public diplomacy an urgent task," Ma said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said at the inauguration ceremony of the CPDA on December 31, 2012, that public diplomacy is indispensable to improving the nation's diplomatic pattern, regarding it as an "important exploratory field" in China's diplomatic work.
Yang pointed out that public diplomacy requires resources from all communities and active participation by entire society. He said he hopes the association can make major contributions to the promotion of China's public diplomacy and create a sound foundation for national development and foreign affairs.
The association's establishment marked a milestone in China's efforts to promote public diplomacy, a term that refers to a country's activities aimed at promoting its global image and influence. Li Zhaoxing, CPDA Chairman and former Chinese Foreign Minister, noted that as a national non-profit organization, the CPDA will help to strengthen the soft power of China by mobilizing, coordinating and organizing social resources.
As proposed in the report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which sets the tone for China's domestic and foreign policies in the years to come, it is imperative for the country to meet higher requirements in promoting public diplomacy and increasing people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
Ma said that the world's development features multi-polarization, globalization and fast progress in information technology, demanding greater mutual understanding among different nations. China has become an influential power in the world after more than 30 years of opening up and development.
"Other countries are eager to learn about China, so China must present itself to the world," Ma stressed. Unfortunately, there are still incorrect or biased views about China throughout the world. "We need to do our job of letting the world see the real China," said Ma.
Ma pointed out that as China's development becomes more closely intertwined with other countries, Chinese people are also going abroad to invest, study and travel. Against this backdrop, it is crucial for foreigners to understand China's policies.
He also noted that China lacks a national and systemic program to coordinate its public diplomacy. "An important job for us is to mobilize more people to join public diplomacy and better coordinate their efforts," said Ma.