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Canadian sinologist optimistic about future of Chinese culture
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China preserves its cultural heritage and traditional values while making great achievements in economic reform and opening up, well-known Canadian sinologist and former diplomat Jan Walls told Xinhua during a recent interview, saying he is "optimistic" about the future of Chinese culture.

Jan Walls, 69, has taught Chinese language in Canadian universities for over 30 years and engaged in a life-time research of Chinese culture. He served as the first secretary for cultural and scientific affairs in the Canadian Embassy in Beijing from 1981 to 1983.

At that time, China had just launched the policy of economic reform and opening to the outside world, Jan recalled, adding that many people doubted the program would last long, citing the annoying western influence which came along with the opening.

However, the process of reform and opening up has been moving forward, though on a zigzag path. He praised the Chinese leadership for exploring the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics in a pragmatic way, as illustrated by a famous saying "crossing the river by feeling for the stones."

"The course that China has taken in the past 30 years is correct overall. I appreciate that very much," Jan said.

Since the diplomatic mission was over, the sinologist has gone back to China, usually once or twice a year, for cultural and educational exchange. He has witnessed the changes year by year, which he describes as "remarkable and striking."

He said: "It couldn't be better so long as China addresses and maintains the stability of social conditions, restores and maintains environmental health, and continues the economic development and opening to the outside world."

Jan enjoys great academic attainments not only in Chinese teaching, but also in translating Chinese poetry into English versions which are chantable and contain the original verve. He finds that in China, the stronger the economy grows and the higher the living standard rises, the more self-confident people become in their own national culture and history.

"This is partly because of the cultural identity of Chinese people. I think it's a good phenomenon," said Jan.

He said that in recent years Chinese people have even more interest and confidence in national cultural heritage and many are working on such issues as how Chinese civilization has survived the many historical tests over a period of several thousand years.

In his opinion, Chinese civilization has inner mechanisms to adjust to outside changes, and thus possesses a powerful vitality. "This needs to be fully studied, because no other ancient civilization has lasted long enough to remain a major part of the world today. "

"I'm optimistic about the future development of Chinese culture as well as politics and economy," Jan said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 24, 2009)

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