THE HAUGE, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- China's multifaceted and diverse relevance to the Dutch society, despite increasingly spreading in a large number of fields, is still underestimated, a Dutch expert has said.
"When people think of the Chinese presence in the Netherlands they have a biased or lopsided view," said Frank Pieke, professor of modern China studies at Leiden University. "China's presence is not just limited to the Chinese investments or the economic relations of the two countries. This is just a little sliver of why China is relevant to the Netherlands."
Key organizer of the conference "China in the Netherlands" to be held in Leiden University on Thursday, the expert on Chinese politics and social anthropology envisions to broaden the public view of what the orient country means to Holland.
At the same time Pieke believes that the conference will enable the royal couple to gain "a better appreciation of the great spread and diversity of China's relevance to the Dutch society."
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will visit China at the end of October. During the conference the royal couple will meet representatives from business, science, culture and media which are actively involved in the cooperation between the two countries.
According to the Dutch expert China's relevance to Holland can be also seen through the long standing presence of the Chinese community, which includes owners of well known restaurants, but also the second and third generation. "These are fully Dutch citizens but at the same time they speak Chinese and they identify themselves as Chinese," he told Xinhua in an interview.
He referred to the "modest, but rising" group of Chinese educated expatriates and professionals living in this country, but also to the 7,000 Chinese students, who are the largest group of foreign non-European students in the Netherlands. "Not to mention the increasing significance of Chinese tourists," he said.
"China is in Holland in many ways," the professor said, referring also to the country's increased prominence as a political and economic world power and its importance to the Dutch government.
But the understanding of the Chinese culture "is not as profound as it should be," the Dutch expert believes, despite efforts made to introduce various aspects of it. "It is still of specialised interest and imperfectly connected to the main stream culture," Pieke said.
According to the professor, whose research work spreads in various fields including migration, administration and sociocultural aspects in contemporary China, "people think of Chinese culture as separate and different from western culture as there is no normal integration of Chinese influences into the global culture."
Yet the situation is gradually changing with the increasing importance of Chinese movies and contemporary art. "There is an increasing appreciation in western society and in Holland of things culturally Chinese, but it is still modest," he argued. "China is mainly perceived as an economic power. As part of global modernity it is still underexposed and viewed in opposition to the West."
Modern Chinese studies, which also include the study of language and culture, are concentrated in Leiden. Only during the last 10 years the subject has started to branch out to other Dutch universities. "There are still only a few experts on modern China," Pieke said.
He acknowledged that studies on contemporary China in Dutch universities, which could empower more conscious awareness of what Chinese culture is, started relatively late compared to the British ones even though Leiden University was among the first European academic institutions to include Chinese studies in the 19th century.
Academic interest in China is increasing, but not necessarily focusing on its social and cultural aspects. At Wageningen University there is growing interest in research focusing on China as a developing country, while the university of Groningen has fairly recently set up a unit of subjects on Chinese studies. Groningen is also looking into the possibility of opening up a university campus in China.