Thursday, November 18, 2004

In Asia, China Gains Economic Hold

"For a few years ahead, it will still be the United States as No.1, but soon it will be China," Long, the son of a Thai businessman.

The center is part of China's expanding presence across Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where Beijing is making a big push to market itself and its language, similar to the way the United States promoted its culture and values during the Cold War. It is not a hard sell, particularly to young Asians eager to cement cultural bonds as China deepens its economic and political interests in the region.

Put off from visiting the United States by the difficulty of gaining visas after 9/11, more and more Southeast Asians are traveling to China as students and tourists. Likewise, Chinese tourists, less fearful than Americans of the threat of being targets of terrorism, are becoming the dominant tourist group in the region, outnumbering Americans in places such as Thailand and fast catching up to the ubiquitous Japanese.

But the trend is clear, educators and diplomats here say: The Americans are losing influence.

As Washington cuts back, China is providing concrete alternatives. The Chinese president and Communist Party chief, Hu Jintao, told the Australian Parliament last year:

"The Chinese culture belongs not only to the Chinese, but also to the whole world," he said. "We stand ready to step up cultural exchanges with the rest of the world in a joint promotion of cultural prosperity."
via Seattle PI

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