by Xinhua writer Zhang Jianhua
LONDON, July 1 (Xinhua) -- The study of China is still too marginalized and politicized in Europe, with some western scholars facing the risk of lagging behind the real developments in China due to inadequate language skills and outdated sources of information, two British experts have warned.
"China is becoming increasingly important to our economic and political future, and yet the study of China is still too marginalized within universities," said Kerry Brown, an associate fellow on the Asia Program at leading British think tank Chatham House, in an email interview with Xinhua.
Noting that the status of Chinese studies is not high enough, he stressed the need "to make the study of aspects of China more part of the mainstream in our schools and universities" while speaking at an international conference on Chinese studies held in Copenhagen in mid-June.
"We were over reliant on buying in expertise, mostly from Chinese scholars and students based here, because of a lack of our own language skills," added Brown, who is also a professor of Chinese politics and executive director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney.
He called for more efforts "to produce a new generation of experts within Europe."
Brown's concerns over the lack of language abilities in western academia of Chinese studies were shared by Zhengxu Wang, associate professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, who is also deputy director of the university's China Policy Institute.
Wang said in an email interview with Xinhua that Britain's real interest in Chinese studies intensified toward the late 1990s "as China's rise become much clearer," with researches and teaching on China's economy, politics, and international relations expanding rapidly.
"For scholars on politics and social issues, there is a growing issue of being up-to-date. This is largely due to language and sources of information constraints ... most western scholars lack the ability to keep up with this," Wang said, adding that "clearly the Chinese-language sources are becoming abundant now."
"If they rely mostly on English-language sources, they often miss the big picture, and they often lag behind in terms of real development in China," he continued.
Meanwhile, the experts also pointed out some other obstacles hampering Europe's Chinese studies, such as the politicization of academic research as well as the gap between expertise and application.
"The study of China was too politicized. We need to do more to create a more neutral space where we could think about China, its history and current situation more dispassionately," Brown urged.
Despite having "some of the world's best experts on modern China," Europe was not good at making their expertise available for policy makers, he noted.
"There was a lack of a common language between policy makers and academic specialists, and we needed to do more to encourage bridges between the two," he said, highlighting the need for the experts' knowledge and perspectives "to be more widely available."