Over the last 30 years, China has risen from a marginal developing country to being the second Economy in the World, and a major economic, diplomatic, strategic and cultural power.
This ascension has resulted in a growing interest for China, both among ‘developed’ and ‘developign’ countries. The interest can be felt at grassroots level – with more and more people interested in developing business ties with China, learning about the culture, or travelling to China. It is also echoed in government priorities: many governments, incluing Australia’s, have prioritised their diplomatic relationship with China, and identified increasing Chinese language fluency and understanding of Chinese culture as a priority for their education system.
The change in China has been more radical. The new affluence has been accompanied by an incredible opening of the country. It has also seen the development of a Chinese middle class. China welcomes a rising number of visitors, foreign students and investors; an increasing number of Chinese people learn foreign languages, study abroad, or travel internationally.
This opening and this ascension have nurtured a strong desire among Chinese people and within the Chinese government to promote their culture internationally. The Marco Polo Project happens in this context, and proposes to offer a platform where the existing interest to understand China can meet the existing desire to explain China.