1. The first word of the Quran was the command 'to read'. Had the command 'to read' appeared as the last word of the Quran then Muslims of the world cannot be blamed if they read only the Quran. Since the command 'to read' appeared at the beginning of the Quran, and as the Quran took over twenty years before it was completely revealed Muslims had correctly interpreted the command 'to read' as a directive for Muslims to search for knowledge. The earlier Hadith ' learn, even if it is from China' is certainly in line with this first command 'to read'.
2. An International Islamic University student once asked me, after my speech, as to what could specifically be learnt from China at the time of this Hadith on China. As I am not an Ulama I could only say that about ten years before our beloved Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. became Rasulullah there were three great achievements in China. China produced the best silk in the world, it had the longest bridge across the Yang Tze river and it had discovered the printing press ( from The Chinese Science Encyclopaedia ). Chinese traders could be seen reading printed books in the bazaars that they travelled to, along the Silk Route. Syria, or Sham, which our beloved prophet travelled to as a trader, was along the Silk Route. Out beloved Prophet, being observant, would not have missed seeing the Chinese in the bazaars reading printed books. And learning from China on how to print books would certaingly help in expediting the growth of the reading or 'iqra'' culture among the Muslims. Wallahu a'lam.
3. I am quite aware that this Hadith on learning from China is considered by a majority of Ulama as a weak Hadith. I am, however, on the side of the minority, and I find no reason to reject this wisdom.
4. As a result of reading all available quality books in the various languages, including Greek and Latin, the Muslim world had on record the following thinkers and scientists between 700 AD to 1400 AD. The West had to learn Arabic to regain this knowledge when they came out of the Dark Ages: