This week, after many months of preparation two of China's leading educational institutions, Peking University and Tsinghua University, joined the EdX online educational consortium by providing six courses available without charge online. China now has officially entered the movement known as the Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOC.
The jury is still very much out on whether or not MOOC will be the predominant education model of the computer-centric 21st century. However, even if it is just the latest fad in education, there are many immediate benefits to China and its soft power profile, as well as to Beida and Tsinghua in joining EdX.
Seeing is believing. Many people believe that Chinese education is all about rote memorization and not about teaching critical thinking and creativity. Now these Doubting Thomases will be able to observe firsthand the best of what the Chinese educational system has to offer albeit only if they know Chinese, as the courses will be in Chinese at first, with English and other languages to come later - so they can make their own personal judgments unfiltered by prejudiced pundits.