China has enormous global influence and its rise is changing the world. Yet for all its economic might, power and influence, foreigners know little about the country or the men who rule it. To allay concerns, Beijing has poured billions of dollars into launching international media outlets and image-building campaigns in recent years and officials have become more open to the overseas media. But perceptions have only marginally changed, making plain that the efforts are nowhere near enough. Part of the problem is that a basic tenet of public relations is too often overlooked - image cannot be changed if it is not viewed as being matched by behaviour. Scandals over the quality and safety of Chinese products persist, undermining campaigns to shore up the 'made in China' brand. Officials emphasise that the nation's rise will be peaceful, as did State Councillor Dai Bingguo in an article in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper last month. To the US and most neighbours in Asia, who eye the dramatic growth of China's military with suspicion, such assertions could as easily be mere empty words. Officials are well aware of the deficit. Their means of explaining policies and getting their message across has become increasingly sophisticated. Government websites have been made user-friendly and the Communist Party's views are available internationally through state-run newspapers and television channels. Ahead of President Hu Jintao's visit to the US in January, advertisements featuring Chinese personalities aired on American news networks and on giant screens at Times Square in New York and in Washington's Chinatown. But images of people foreigners may not be familiar with and media outlets that are not mainstream will not by themselves change views. The Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai last year were extravagant, one-off international publicity efforts. Top leaders can best explain policies and programmes through the foreign media by giving press conferences and interviews, however they have generally been media shy. Premier Wen Jiabao has broken the mould, taking questions from journalists at the end of the annual National People's Congress and occasionally on overseas trips. Hu has not been so forthcoming, though, his single concession being written responses last December to questions submitted by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. This is not nearly enough. Compared to the past, when leaders never gave interviews, it is progress, but they need to be substantially more open and forthcoming. How the world sees China will not dramatically alter without a shift in politics and ideology. Until then, officials at all levels have to strive to make themselves more accessible to the media, local and foreign.